Based on a true story that took place in the 1950s, Brosnan plays Desmond Doyle, a father of three young children who is left to care for the kids when his wife leaves him for another man the day after Christmas. This happens to coincide with another unsettling loss for Doyle - he's recently lost his job. Since he is unable to find work, the courts have taken his two sons and only daughter Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur) and placed them in church run orphanages. When he finds suitable employment and tries to re-unite with his children, he finds his troubles have only just begun.
While in the orphanages, the children are forced to comply with the church's strict rules or face physical beatings. Evelyn is slapped repeatedly by a nun for protesting the beating of one of her classmates. Doyle is outraged by the treatment of his children, but because of a silly law (Children's Act of 1941), he must obtain his wife's consent to release the children from the church. Unfortunately, Doyle's wife is nowhere to be found! After soaking his sorrows in countless pints of Guinness, he finds the courage to fight back. He enlists the help of a barmaid named Bernadette (Julianna Margulies), who provides inspiration for Doyle to kick his drinking habit and improve his image. He also hires two attorneys (Stephen Rea and Aidan Quinn) to represent his case in court.
Evelyn is a heartwarming and inspirational journey that follows likable people who are forced to dig deep into themselves to find the strength to deal with the difficulties life deals them. The film heavily stacks the deck against Doyle by giving him numerous reasons to lose hope, but it never reaches the uncomfortable point where we feel overly manipulated by plot machinations. Though Evelyn is a little too sentimental at times, the film avoids the formulaic pitfalls of similar movies and is really quite enjoyable.
Bruce Beresford, who directed Oscar winners Tender Mercies and Driving Miss Daisy, returns to award-worthy form with Evelyn. His film has the look and feel of the time period by accurately portraying the dramatic divisions between the Catholic Church and the Irish State. Beresford also gives us many lighthearted moments that offer balance to a movie that often pulls at our heartstrings. He elicits many laughs by contrasting the dynamics of television news reporting and a radio news reporter's desire to outlast and out-report those on television.
Brosnan's work is Oscar worthy, and Vavasseur is a true inspiration as the little Evelyn. Someone her age could have easily lost hope in such dreadful circumstances, but instead she grabs onto what little she has inside the wretched orphanage and shows more courage under fire than most adults. The courtroom scene, where she confronts the atrocities of the orphanage and challenges the Irish Supreme Court to make the correct decision, is one of the most moving moments in the film. In fact, it's hard not to be moved by this film. Cliché or no, Evelyn is the feel good movie of the year.
The sun'll come out tomorrow.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 21st March 2003
Box Office USA: $1.3M
Distributed by: MGM/UA
Production compaines: CineEvelyn
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Fresh: 73 Rotten: 41
IMDB: 7.0 / 10
Director: Bruce Beresford
Screenwriter: Paul Pender
Starring: Pierce Brosnan as Desmond Doyle, Sophie Vavasseur as Evelyn Doyle, Aidan Quinn as Nick Barron, Julianna Margulies as Bernadette Beattie, Stephen Rea as Michael Beattie, Alan Bates as Thomas Connolly