By the Grace of God: François Ozon’s telling of an insidious case of serial child abuse (and, almost as crucially, its cover-up efforts) is meticulous, ponderous, and a bit distant. Such emotional distance is not unwelcome, as many details of the story are potent enough without the need for added melodrama on top of that. The film loses steam as it goes on, but the approach to look at a set of victims and each of their reactions, one at a time, allows a broader picture. The performances are very good: the somber tone of the film doesn’t call for showboating, so they are mostly on the subtle side. Melvil Poupaud gets most runtime, and his performance is the subtlest out of the protagonists; emotions are bottled up but one can see they are present. Denis Ménochet, on the other hand, is a well of energy and ideas. Swann Arlaud is at the other end of the spectrum, a clearly damaged person. The film accentuates its sobriety visually as well, with quiet and precise camerawork by director of photography Manuel Dacosse.
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