Set in 1953, EVELYN tells the story of a young Irish girl whose mother runs off with another man at Christmas. When her father Desmond, played superbly by Pierce Brosnan, can’t make ends meet, the government makes him turn his children over to the Catholic orphanages. Desmond works hard to get his children back, but the state blocks him at every turn. He convinces three attorneys to take his case. At the trial, his flaws come out, including his drinking out of depression and his throttling a nun who beat Evelyn. Even so, his clear profession of Christian faith, a miracle and Evelyn’s poignant prayer in the midst of her trails and tribulations, touch the heart of everyone in the court.
With stellar acting and superb direction, EVELYN has been polished to absolute perfection. Smoking, drinking, minor violence, and foul language, recommend caution for younger children, though adolescents and adults will want to see God’s grace, mercy and miracles transform a hopeless situation into a triumphant victory for Jesus Christ. Showing the human condition in all its fallenness, EVELYN is a brave, Christ-centered movie that will delight, encourage and touch everyone who sees it.
(CCC, Ab, BB, LL, V, S, N, A, D, M) Very Christian worldview about morality triumphing with miracles, affirmation of Trinity, positive references to Jesus Christ, good Christians, and self-righteous, mean spirited nun; 13 obscenities and 10 profanities; man falls off wall, fist fight, nun slaps girl, nun paddles girl (discipline), man throttles nun, father has heart attack, and man chased through woods; passionate kissing; alcohol abuse which is rebuked; smoking which is rebuked; and, nun lies, judge is prejudiced, and mother abandons her family.
Bruce Beresford is a consummate filmmaker, whose faith shows through in the Christian worldview of all his works, including DRIVING MISS DAISY. EVELYN is arguably his finest work to date.
Set in 1953, in Ireland, EVELYN opens up with Desmond Doyle preparing Christmas for his family of three children, including his little daughter named Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur), Maurice and Dermot. His father arrives, so Desmond goes to find his wife at the pub. Looking through the pub window, he sees her nuzzled up against another man. Early on the morning after Christmas, the mother packs her bags and drives off with the other man, as Evelyn runs after her.
The social welfare worker tells Desmond that he needs a wife and a job. The social welfare worker then sends in the nuns (remember that Ireland was officially an Irish/Catholic country at that time) to take care of Desmond’s small children.
Desmond is a part-time house painter and can’t make ends meet. Eventually, the government tells him that he must turn his three children over to the Catholic orphanages. The welfare official tells Desmond that if he gets his life together and gets a job, he can get his children back.
He loves his children so much that he gets several jobs and even sings with his father in pubs. However, it turns out he can’t get his children back because his wife has to agree with their return home, and she has disappeared in Australia.
Desmond goes to an attorney, Michael (Stephen Rea), who makes an attempt to help him. When they lose their case, the attorney quits.
Desmond will not be stopped. He challenges the attorney while the attorney is fishing on his elegant estate with his friend, Nick (Aidan Quinn). The friend, who lost his own children in a divorce, has compassion on Desmond and says that he will take the case. Together, they recruit another retired attorney, Nick’s mentor, Thomas Connolly (Alan Bates), who is known as a man who can’t be bought and a lawyer who beats the system.
Desmond refuses to take no for an answer. To get his children back, they must overturn the child welfare act. When they lose once more in court, they try one last gamut.
Desmond does not make the case or the attorney’s jobs any easier. He drinks out of depression. When he finds out that one of the nuns has ruthlessly hit his daughter, Evelyn, he marches into the convent school to seize his daughter and ends up throttling the nun. At the trial, all of his flaws come out, and everyone wants to believe the state and the church, but his profession of Trinitarian faith and Evelyn’s profession of her faith reinforced by a miracle, in the midst of all her trials and tribulations, is incredible.
Pierce Brosnan is surprising in this role. One soon forgets all about James Bond. His humility and limitations as Desmond come through clearly. Alan Bates is superb as Thomas Connolly.
The fact that every single actor and actress in the movie is good, shows that the director, Bruce Beresford, is one of the few true auteurs in the movie industry.
The camera work is not showy. The audience believes that they are in 1953 Ireland, and total authenticity pervades the film. This is not a high-octane Hollywood movie, but rather a gem that has been polished to absolute perfection.
EVELYN does not portray the church as pristine. There are wonderful clergy and nuns, and also austere and mean-spirited ones. There is drinking and smoking in the movie, abandonment, and a growing romance that is never consummated.
Even so, underneath all that happens, in word and in deed, Jesus Christ is acknowledged…from the opening statue of Jesus, to the incredible profession of faith of a semi-literate Desmond and his little daughter. Prayers and love pervade every aspect of the movie. For anyone who wants to make the State god, they will learn that God is God in EVELYN.
In terms of its Christian virtues, EVELYN is a +4 movie, but the smoking, drinking, and minor violence, as well as some foul language, recommend caution for younger children. Little children should not see the nun beating Evelyn, but adolescents and adults should see God’s grace, mercy, love, and even visible miracles transform a hopeless situation into a triumphant victory for Jesus Christ.
There is so much to commend in this movie. It is so real that it could be used over and over and over in school and church to teach valuable lessons. People are human. People are fallen. People make mistakes. Faith and love, however, transcend the condition of man. EVELYN is a brave, triumphant, heart-rending faithful movie that will delight, encourage and touch all who see it.
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