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Based on a true, still-developing story, François Ozon’s By the Grace of God is a deeply humane dramatisation of a victim-led campaign to seek justice against a paedophile priest and the church structures that enabled his destructive behaviour. Adjacent to Spotlight (the 2015 Best Picture Oscar winner is sneakily referenced via a poster on a wall in one scene), the veteran French director’s film focuses on the lives of three very different men facing down a powerful institution and decades of trauma, in an effort to find peace and effect societal change. — Jacob Powell
“It’s an admirably sober account of the often painful process for abuse victims of coming forward with testimony after living for 30 years or more with their painful secrets. Their stories echo those of countless other countries around the world, where exposure of pedophilia scandals has shaken the public’s trust in the Catholic Church, finally prompting the Vatican under Pope Francis to issue zero-tolerance statements. The gap between such statements and concrete action to remove the offenders is the gray zone into which Ozon digs.
This is a social justice film made with purposeful conviction and a quiet, never strident, sense of indignation. It’s persuasively acted, elegantly shot, subtly scored and briskly edited to keep the dense, procedural action moving forward as the narrative baton is passed among three adult men who take the difficult step of speaking out about their boyhood experiences.” — David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
“That the film works as stirringly as it does is largely because of that brash, heart-on-sleeve engagement with its characters’ messy, unfinished feelings, not to mention Ozon’s canny knack for playing on French star personae.” — Guy Lodge, Variety