A story as mushy and schmaltzy as Evelyn could only be based on a true story. This is the story of how Irishman Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan, Die Another Day, The Tailor of Panama) fought his way through the Irish court system to regain custody of his children after his wife abandoned them. Heck, even the characters refer to this as a David and Goliath story more than once in the film itself. Director Bruce Beresford (Bride of the Wind, Double Jeopardy) shamelessly makes Evelyn an emotional tearjerker, but does it with enough finesse that it comes across as earnest instead of manipulative, and this is actually a fairly hard thing to do well. The result is a feel-good movie that fulfills everybody's moderate expectations of it, and releasing it around Christmas gives it that extra special gooey center.
Brosnan took the role of Doyle to show that he can expand range. He does a good job of decomposing the slick image of James Bond everybody is familiar with and mussing it up to portray Doyle, lower middle class craftsman, who is everything that Bond is not. The loss of his wife leads the courts to take his children away from him, and this drives him to "the drink." Paul Pender's screenplay focuses mainly on Evelyn (Sofie Vavasseur), but Doyle had two other children. For purposes of this movie, they show up occasionally and look cute, but for the most part are anonymous. The courts place Evelyn in a Catholic orphanage, where she has plenty of opportunities to look cute and elicit sympathy from the viewer. Meanwhile, Doyle's attempts to obtain a lawyer willing to argue the case finally come to fruition when he decides to sober up and American lawyer Nick Barron (Aidan Quinn, Stolen Summer, Songcatcher) volunteers. Barron, Michael Beattie (a constipated, badly shorn Stephen Rea, FearDotCom, The Musketeer), and Thomas Connolly (Alan Bates, The Sum of All Fears, The Mothman Prophecies) form the legal team.
Beresford takes all the necessary steps to keep the story moving without getting dull at any point, aside from the inherent predictability. After all, what point is Evelyn if Doyle failed? There is a decent amount of humor to liven the proceedings, but some of the use of light is a little much. Julianna Marguiles (Ghost Ship, The Man From Elysian Fields) also makes an appearance as the token love interest, but makes no discernible impact. It's Brosnan and Vavasseur, who is unnaturally precocious and cute, that are the heart of Evelyn. It was a wise decision to focus only on Evelyn, because it tightens the story and puts the main focus on the cutest kid. Beresford does tread in dangerous territory by trying really hard to make Evelyn a moving story, but for the most part he is able to keep things charming enough to let the story come through.
|Haro Rates It: Not Bad.|
|1 hour, 34 minutes, Rated PG for thematic material and language.|
Back to Movies