On a September evening in 2002, three skinhead hatemongers set out to "do an Arab" in the city of Reims, 90 miles northeast of Paris. Instead, they targeted a 29-year-old gay man named François Chenu, whom they beat unconscious and threw into a lake to drown. That we never see the faces of the victim nor the murderers in Beyond Hatred is a fascinating component to director Olivier Meyrou's experiment in concentrated humanism, which makes its bones through the distanced yet unsettling observations and recollections of Chenu's tightly knit clan. Beginning without any explanatory voice-over some "730 days" after the crime, the film shows the family members intellectualizing their grief to one another, often talking themselves into a loop while smoking too many cigarettes. Thankfully, Meyrou's intent isn't to launch a predictable crusade against homophobia itself, but to quietly understand the factors that molded this young trio into senseless killers. It's easy to find fault with the film's maudlin score, overlong static shots devoid of the abstract poetry they infer, and a second half that pursues legal rather than personal ramifications at a trial where cameras aren't allowed. But, following the family's path to closure, we'll forgive.
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