“By the Grace of God” (Music Box)

Melvil Poupaud, right, stars in a scene from the movie "By the Grace of God." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS/courtesy Music Box Films)

By Catholic News Service

Hard-hitting fact-based drama about priestly sexual abuse. Decades after being molested by Father Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley) a group of survivors in Lyon, France, band together to bring him to justice and to compel the archbishop of that city, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (Francois Marthouret), to reveal what he knew about Preynat’s evil deeds and when. The effort is initiated by a still-practicing Catholic businessman (Melvil Poupaud), then joined by a combative atheist (Denis Menochet) and by an emotionally ravaged lost soul (Swann Arlaud).

Writer-director Francois Ozon uses an ensemble cast to give viewers a sense of the impact one serial predator can have and of the varied reactions to trauma that may result from his crimes. Though this crowded canvas sometimes makes his film seem slightly diffuse, its understated tone and comfort with ambiguity only increase its ultimate emotional impact. A challenging but subtly crafted piece of cinema.

In French. Subtitles. Mature themes, including the sexual abuse of children, drug use, cohabitation, upper and rear nudity, an obscured image of full nudity, at least one use of profanity, considerable rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

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