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Deliver Us from Evil

Movie review by
Cynthia Fuchs, Common Sense Media
Deliver Us from Evil Movie Poster Image
Intense child abuse documentary. Adults only.
  • NR
  • 2006
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Victims and survivors of abuse show great strength and courage, but the included representatives of the clergy show self-interest and denial -- particularly O'Grady, who doesn't really show signs of remorse.

Violence

No violent images, per se, but many stories of sexual molestation demonstrate that this is violence against children; one victim angrily recalls where he was sodomized; one victim's father cries out and accuses priest of rape (as opposed to the euphemistic "inappropriate touching") -- his outburst is loud and upsetting.

Sex

Ongoing discussion of sexual activity, perversion, and abuse; interviewees (victims and their parents) recall child abuse by priest; priest describes his attraction to young children (in underwear and naked).

Language

Several (5 or so) uses of "f--k" (in anger); other occasional profanity ("s--t"); language describing sexual abuse (including "penis").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasional cigarette smoking during interviews.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this intense documentary isn't for kids. Focused on one priest's repeated abuse of children in Southern California during the 1970s and '80s, the film includes many disturbing descriptions and memories. During their emotional interviews, victims and family members use some explicit language. But perhaps more upsettingly, the priest, now retired, describes his past actions in passive language, as patchy memories; the smile on his face suggests that he isn't at all remorseful and remains unaware of the damage he's done.

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What's the story?

DELIVER US FROM EVIL focuses on the sad, infuriating story of Catholic priest Father Oliver O'Grady. During the 1970s and '80s, O'Grady was assigned to a series of Southern California parishes. At each stop, he abused children sexually; each time he was found out, church officials moved him to another town -- in order, the film argues, to protect their own careers from scandal by association. No one took responsibility for O'Grady's repeated, predictable actions, and so he kept going, unchecked, for nearly two decades.

Is it any good?

Former CNN reporter and first-time director Amy Berg's unsettling film builds slowly toward full revelations. In doing so, it demonstrates the ways that family members and authorities were unable to face what was happening. Deliver Us From Evil uses standard documentary methods -- talking-head interviews, photos provided by interviewees, maps charting O'Grady's movements, and videotaped depositions by church officials -- in order to show the frightening depths of the problem of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Interviewees -- including abuse survivors and their families, lawyers for the families, a therapist, and a cleric who served with O'Grady -- trace O'Grady's particular case in some detail. Much of this detail comes across indirectly, as the film also includes videotaped depositions by church officials as they try very hard not to answer questions about what they knew and when they knew it. But their fidgeting and refusal to look at the camera only make them look shifty.

By the time O'Grady reveals that he, too, was abused as a child, it's almost impossible to feel sympathy for him. But his ongoing inability to comprehend what he's done or even what happened to him underscores the film's most terrible truth: The cycle of abuse is ongoing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the responsibility of the church in this ongoing scandal. How does the movie present the reasons for the cover-up? Interview subjects say that they can't forgive or forget such betrayal, by both O'Grady and the church hierarchy; how do you think people can deal with this sort of devastation? How does the film suggest that the two victims' journey to Rome was a start toward recovery?

Movie details

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