'A Fall from Grace' review: Tyler Perry's Netflix film departs from family-friendly territory

Crystal Fox in “Tyler Perry’s A Fall From Grace.'
Crystal Fox in “Tyler Perry’s A Fall From Grace." | Netflix

This article includes light spoilers for “A Fall from Grace.” 

Tyler Perry is one of Hollywood’s most recognizable and multi-talented figures, with an impressive resume that includes acting, directing, producing, and comedic ventures. Now, the “Madea” creator has taken his talents to the popular streaming service Netflix with the dark thriller “A Fall from Grace.”

Written, directed, and produced by Perry, the film boasts an impressive cast: Bresha Webb, Crystal Fox, Mehcad Brooks, Phylicia Rashad, and veteran actress Cicely Tyson. Yet, even a talented cast isn’t enough to save the haphazard film rife with unresolved storylines, dubious material, and jarring revelations. 

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Set in suburban Virginia, a young and inexperienced public defender Jasmine (Webb) is tasked with getting a plea deal from Grace (Fox), a middle-aged divorcee who has confessed to murdering her younger husband. Though she has little support from her co-workers and stern boss (Perry), Jasmine is excited to tackle her first “big girl” case and prove her worth as an attorney.

The two women meet and connect over their shared Christian faith. While Grace maintains she killed her husband, Jasmine isn’t so sure. She tracks down Grace’s best friend, Sarah, (Rashad), who further convinces her that Grace deserves her freedom.

We learn Grace’s story through a series of flashbacks: Disillusioned by her ex-husband’s affair, she eagerly falls into the arms of a handsome young photographer, Shannon, who woos her with romantic dates, flowers, and unrelenting attention. Despite her initial reservations, Grace falls head over heels for Shannon, with Sarah's encouragement.

It’s not long before the two are married — yet within months, it’s clear Shannon isn’t exactly Prince Charming. He lies, cheats, and steals, leaving Grace broken, penniless, and destitute. 

But Shannon isn’t the only character who isn’t who he claims to be: Soft-spoken Sarah, who has a skittish, elderly housemate (Tyson), proves to have her own secrets that might undo everything Grace thought she knew to be true. 

“A Fall from Grace” is littered with religious symbolism and talk of church and prayer. Both Grace and Sarah are “women of faith.” Perry, a professing Christian, told CP his faith drives every project he tackles. 

Yet, unlike some of Perry’s past projects, “A Fall from Grace” is not likely to resonate with faith-based audiences. There is brief nudity, several sex scenes, and language, including f--- and b----. Shannon is abusive to Grace, both physically and verbally, and is seen smoking on several occasions. 

There are other scenes of violence: Shannon’s “murder” is reenacted in vivid detail, while in one particularly disturbing scene, elderly women are shown shackled to a basement floor, emaciated and dirty. It’s a surprising departure from Perry’s past, family-friendly projects.

Yet, for all its faults, “A Fall from Grace” casts visibility on surprisingly sensitive, prevalent, and touching issues. 

Grace is symbolic of the loneliness and vulnerability many single, older women face. Fox told CP that following pre-screenings of the film, both men and women told her that Grace’s story isn’t unlike their own.

In one heartbreaking scene, Grace questions how she, a smart, capable, successful woman and mother, could’ve have been “stupid” enough to fall for someone like Shannon. It’s a struggle many lonely women around the world — created by God to love and to be loved — face every day. 

Additionally, “A Fall from Grace” sheds light on the rarely-discussed issue of elder abuse. According to statistics, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates range as high as 5 million elders who are abused each year. Yet, one study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities — and it’s a subject rarely broached in film or television. 

It also highlights the importance of family, loyalty, forgiveness, and redemption — themes that reflect Perry’s Christian roots and love for his own mother, who he previously said influences his female protagonists. 

“A Fall from Grace” is easy, quick entertainment that will keep viewers’ attention with its spotty humor, unbelievable twists, and fast pace. But despite its positive qualities, it’s ultimately a film that conservative and faith-based viewers might want to avoid due to its sexual and violent content. 

"A Fall from Grace" is now streaming on Netflix.

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