There are things I’ve learned you should never do. Never give your friend’s drug addicted daughter help you move. She might disappear along with some of you lighter valuables. Drug addicts can’t be trusted and they know they can’t be trusted because to get to where they are, they’ve likely done some bad stuff for reasons you and I probably can’t really imagine.

Cédric Kahn’s “The Prayer” (La prière) puts addicts amongst the people who understand them best–other addicts. The 22-year-old Thomas (Anthony Bajon) wants to kick his habit and joins a community of former addicts who live immersed in prayer in an isolated community in the mountains.

This isn’t a feel-good inspirational story with easy answers. Cinematographer Yves Capes gives us nature as natural rather than National Geographic travelogues. Co-writers Fanny Burdino and Samuel Doux don’t provide excuses for Thomas. We know nothing about his background, his family or his descent into addiction. When we meet him in a bus, he’s more glowering with doom than hopeful. Under the watchful eye of former addict Marco (Alex Brendemühl), Thomas begins a program of manual labor and prayer. He and the program are not an easy fit, but eventually he does fall into the rhythm. There’s a bit of group therapy, too, but these aren’t opportunities for revelations about his family or misdeeds.

Getting clean is only the first step. The rural locale isolates them from temptation and we clearly learn that leaving may not be the answer for some. Thomas transforms from sullen to hopeful, but he also wonders if becoming a monk might not be the answer despite his lustful appreciation for a woman in the outside world, Sybille (Louise Grinberg). 

“The Prayer” doesn’t bring faith forward as the foremost solution to addiction nor does it give sainthood to Marco or the others. Thomas (Bajon won the Silver Berlin Bear for Best Actor) remains unsure if he can trust himself and some of his decisions seem meant to please others but we aren’t privy to his inner monologues. This is an addict who can’t be trusted and doesn’t quite know when to trust himself. The danger of addiction is not just losing the trust in others but in oneself. Pray, if you will, for those who have failed, and those who have fallen and now try to get up, and pray you never find yourself in their shoes.

 

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