Ozon knows his camera placements, musical cues, and, of course, actors, and here he barely steps wrong, pulling us into the narrative, even while dialing back on his usual extravagance.
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Ozon manages to instill a measured touch into every argument, outburst, and testimony, matching the naturalistic cinematography (by Manuel Dacosse, “Let the Corpses Tan”) and bestowing on us the most important and assured movie on this treacherous topic made this decade.
A thoughtful, fast-paced, and immaculately acted procedural that unfolds with the urgency of a newspaper deadline, By the Grace of God zips through the facts of this horrid case, while also shaping them into a lens through which to examine the uneasy relationships between mercy and justice — between faith and the flawed institution that exists to preserve it.
This is a social justice film made with purposeful conviction and a quiet, never strident, sense of indignation.
By the Grace of God is a rarity: An important film that’s also utterly inspired.
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.
Superbly acted and highly controlled, the film doesn’t afford easy entertainment, its slow pace and weighty sense of narrative responsibility making for heavy viewing during stretches of its extended running time.
Ozon’s film evolves less as a procedural story than a character study.
Mostly, though, this very empathetic project suffers from an inability to offer anything beyond what one would expect from its synopsis.
While this is a true story, Ozon goes the fictional movie route, taking a bit of dramatic license while keeping most of the actual details intact. The director impressively juggles the large scope of his script while maintaining the sense of intimacy for his male actors that he normally reserves for his female characters.