Our Father, the Devil
Our Father, the Devil, the feature debut writer-director from Ellie Foumbi, plays out like a psychological revenge thriller. Underneath its gritty premise, though, is a layered and provocative exploration of trauma, guilt and forgiveness that asks who is deserving of a second chance, all of which is carried by a wonderful Babetida Sadjo, who gives a masterful performance in the leading role.
Sadjo plays Marie, the head chef at an upscale retirement home in a quaint French village. She has a good relationship with one of the residents and keeps a small group of friends at work; but while Marie puts on a professional smile during the day, she’s kept a lifetime of trauma bottled up inside. Screams of children and gunfire echo through her head as she walks through the street at the start of the film. When a new priest (Souleymane Sy Savane) arrives at the home, however, Marie believes that he’s the person responsible for the pain and suffering that’s haunted her for years. While everyone else seems to only have good things to say about him, Marie’s fight or flight instinct kicks in and events move into Hard Candy territory.
While Foumbi could have revelled in the more sensational aspects of what follows to create a more conventional revenge thriller outing, the filmmaker instead chooses to eliminate violence from the film almost entirely, with most of the vicious actions occurring out of frame. By removing the violence, the filmmaker doesn’t just avoid glorifying Marie’s revenge, but this choice puts the focus squarely on the motivations behind the brutality. Our Father, the Devil is as raw a revenge thriller as it gets, where every ounce of the pair’s anger and regrets are put to the forefront of each scene.
The devastating weight of these moments instead comes from Sadjo’s unrelenting portrayal. The actor holds nothing back in what is one of the best performances of the year. She is what drives the drama forward at a steady pace before erupting into a passionate climactic scene that will leave audiences stunned.
Though a romantic subplot with a hipster bartender (Franck Saurel) is more padding than necessity, and a major reveal comes a little too early, Foumbi nevertheless creates a savagely intimate tale of revenge and forgiveness set against the backdrop of a picturesque village.
Our Father, the Devil does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
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Watch the trailer for Our Father, the Devil here: