"The Church Is a Hospital for Sinners, Not a Castle for Saints"
What You Need To Know:
BY THE GRACE OF GOD is a challenging movie to watch because it’s impossible not to empathize with the injustice of the molestation, especially at the hands of church leaders. It maintains a Christian, biblical worldview that extols caring for your family, celebrating Christmas, devotion to the church community, forgiveness, and admitting sinful behavior. However, there are also elements where Scripture is taken out of context, and Christians in leadership abuse young children. Though the behavior is rebuked repeatedly, these elements, graphic descriptions of molestation and rape, talk of suicide, and other unsavory elements make BY THE GRACE OF GOD unacceptable.
BY THE GRACE OF GOD, a French movie, follows three grown men, Alexandre, François and Emmanuel, decades after they were sexually harassed by a priest in the Catholic church. The movie spans the course of a few years but tells audiences of the change in season. BY THE GRACE OF GOD maintains a predominant Christian and Biblical worldview, but there are also elements where Scripture is taken out of context, and people of the faith in leadership use their position to abuse young children. Due to these elements, graphic descriptions of molestation and rape, talk of suicide, and other unsavory elements, MOVIEGUIDE® advises excessive.
The movie opens with a prayer and an Archbishop walking on a rooftop. Cut to Alexandre, a middle-aged man with five children. Alexandre explains that, despite being molested in his youth, church remains a priority in the lives of his family, and that he’s still close to God.
Alexandre, with the support of his wife, decides to take his story to a counselor. He meets with Bernard Preynat, the priest who he claims molested him, in the company of his counselor. He expresses his hurt, and Preynat doesn’t deny that he molested him. The three pray and part ways, but Alexandre continues to make sure that the Catholic church hierarchy knows about the incident so that it doesn’t happen again to another boy. However, the local bishop stifles Alexandre’s efforts, so he takes matters to the French police.
Meanwhile, another victim, François, enters the picture. At first, he’s hesitant to speak about his encounters with Preynat because he wants to protect his children and family. However, he eventually joins the efforts to make this public knowledge. François and another character, Giles, form an organization that catches the eye of Emmanuel, the third victim of Perynat.
Emmanuel, at first, calls Francois in the middle of the night and relays his repressed memories of his childhood molestation by Preynat. The two meet sometime later, and Emmanuel, who lives with his aging mother, shares his story with the authorities. At one point, Preynat comes into the police station and, like his meeting with Alexandre, owns up to his sin. Still, those who accuse him marvel that he’s not behind bars or, at least, defrocked from his priestly duties.
All the while, the three men maintain varying views on the Christian faith. Alexandre believes in God and asserts that exposing the truth should be done in tandem with the Catholic Church. François is more callous towards the church and claims to be an atheist but also wants to expose the truth to help those in the church, even though he left the faith. Emmanuel seems to be somewhere in the middle.
The rest of the movie examines the men’s spiritual attitude toward God and the Catholic Church. The last line of dialogue in the movie is, “Do you believe in God?”
BY THE GRACE OF GOD is a challenging movie to watch because it’s impossible not to empathize with the injustice of the molestation, especially at the hands of church officials. The movie’s narrative is also based on true events, which makes the ending of movie, where the criminal case isn’t resolved, even more sobering. BY THE GRACE OF GOD will remind Christians that the devil does indeed come to “steal, kill and destroy,” and this leaves lasting consequences and questions for people of faith and those who don’t believe in God.
BY THE GRACE OF GOD relies heavily on voiceover to capture the narrative. The movie begins at a fast pace and doesn’t slow down, largely due in part as the filmmakers have to fit decades of story into a reasonable amount of time. Still, this shouldn’t deter viewers because the movie’s complex material still manages to hold the viewer’s attention. Since the movie grapples with mature elements, the filmmakers don’t make a point in glorifying any of it. They try to capture the gravity of the child molestation through flashbacks that suggest it happens, choosing not to show anything graphic. That said, the dialogue of the men as adults is quite descriptive.
BY THE GRACE OF GOD maintains a predominant Christian, biblical worldview. Some Christian elements such as caring for your family, celebrating Christmas, devotion to the church community, forgiveness, and admitting sinful behavior are extolled. However, there are also elements where Scripture is taken out of context, and people of the faith in leadership use their position to abuse young children, but positively all of that behavior is rebuked repeatedly and not made to seem attractive. Due to the mature subject matter, some graphic descriptions of molestation and rape, talk of suicide, and other unsavory elements, make BY THE GRACE OF GOD unacceptable.