For the most part The Prayer gets the most obvious rehabilitation tropes out of the way in the first act, giving itself room to move at its own pace through Thomas’ recovery. The languorous movement is appropriate for the subject matter and the idyllic alpine setting – self-improvement is a glacial process, not an avalanche of new truth. If the film has a message, this is it – there are no protracted therapy sessions or stirring moments of revelation; just a boy finding peace, and pieces of himself, as he joins a 21st-century brotherhood.
As Thomas, Anthony Bajon is truly excellent, delivering an unshowy performance steeped in unsaid emotion. Over the film’s course, the changes in Thomas are profound but almost entirely non-verbal, revealed through his shifting body language and relationship to the project and its inhabitants. That’s not to say this is some dreary slog through the inner soul – The Prayer keeps things light by laughing with and at those in its company, with jokes grounded in what you would expect to see and hear in a 21st-century brotherhood.
The film falters briefly at its midpoint, when a real nun is drafted in for a moment of uncomfortable straight talk that sours the film’s positive representation of this project. Thankfully this bum note is largely ignored, and The Prayer sticks to what it can sell through Bajon’s performance and the chemistry between the cast – the universal benefits of positive relationship.
The Prayer tells a very faith-centric story while remaining impartial wherever possible, focusing on the intimacies of Thomas’ journey to avoid swinging for any specific philosophical or religious statement. As a result, it’s a little forgettable, a showcase for an excellent young performer hopefully on their way to bigger things.
CAST: Anthony Bajon, Damien Chapelle, Louise Grinberg, Alex Brendemühl, Antoine Amblard
DIRECTOR: Cédric Kahn
WRITERS: Cédric Kahn, Fanny Burdino, Samuel Doux
SYNOPSIS: Thomas is a drug addict. In an effort to put an end to his habit, he joins a community of former addicts who live isolated in the mountains and use prayer as a way to cure themselves.