Review by Joseph Fayed
Ellie Foumbi's directorial debut Our Father, The Devil will make you feel uneasy. The psychological thriller asks if trauma and redemption can both be possible. The answer is explored through emotionally charged performances that acknowledge how difficult it is to move on from our past.
Marie is a chef at a retirement home in a quiet French village. Her life is going well. Her friendships are stronger than ever, she is given a remote cabin by a resident of the retirement home, and she is being pursued romantically. All of that is upended when she recognizes the new priest at the retirement home, Father Patrick. Marie is reminded of a brutal chapter of her life she has not told anyone else about, and to not disrupt her new life, Marie must figure out what to do with Father Patrick.
Babetida Sadjo, who plays Marie, nails the personality traits of one experiencing trauma in phases. Trauma does not have a particular time span, but the events that unfold with Father Patrick trigger a sense of discomfort and dread back into her life. Her slow withdrawal from her everyday life and the guard she has put up are acted brilliantly by Sadjo. The rare cathartic release we see from her is devastating, especially after her chilling performance dominates most of the film.
The film is well-paced, since little time is devoted to setting up what Marie will do to Father Patrick. Her choice of action is revealed quite early in the film, and from there we learn fragments about her past. Through this, we learn more about Father Patrick and the lines between who is the victim and perpetrator. The story also tries to establish a redemption arc between Marie and Father Patrick. With its complex narrative, what the film gets right is that nobody — particularly Marie — walks away unscathed. The bleak ending matches the tone of the entire film.
Our Father, The Devil has Michael Haneke undertones throughout it. The trauma on screen not only makes you wonder how the characters impacted will rethink their lives, but also asks what if it's not worth it. This is not your typical revenge tale per sé — it is also a story of fulfilling a personal redemption arc. Both are executed well and show a promising directing future for Elle Foumbi. Trauma doesn't just erupt inside of us overnight; it spills over to our daily routine. Pain is inflicted throughout. This is an unsettling watch, but one I would recommend if you wondered how can someone forgive themselves for the worst thing they ever did to another human being.
Our Father, The Devil is now playing in theaters.