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EVELYN

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Aidan Quinn, Julianna Margulies, Stephen Rea, John Lynch, Sophie Vavasseur, Alan Bates
Director: Bruce Beresford
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 95 Minutes
Release Date: April 15, 2003

“I won’t be here for long. My dad’s coming to get me.”

“That’s what my dad told me.”

Film ***

Evelyn is as heartwarming as a movie can get, and the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it all the more uplifting. We don’t get many happy stories from Irish history, as the times have been something of a harsh reality, but this is a special case, one that took place back in the early 50s. Another fascinating element is the huge impact the events in this story had on the constitution in Ireland, notably laws regarding children’s rights to live with any legal guardian and not in an orphanage. This heartwarming tale, headline by a strong lead performance, make this an easily appealing film, especially for family viewing.

Pierce Brosnan stars in a tour de force performance as Desmond Doyle, a loving father who endures something of a struggle when his life hits a bump. When his wife abandons him, as well as their three children, Desmond suddenly finds himself possibly losing custody due to his being unemployed, and a known alcoholic. With his two sons, and daughter Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur), sent to separate orphanages, Desmond intends to take matters to court, hopefully earning trust that he can indefinitely, and very rightly, keep his family together.

In terms of representation, Desmond gets access to Irish attorney Michael Bettle (Stephen Rea), who’s the brother of Desmond’s close friend, Bernadette (Julianna Margulies). He is also represented by Nick Barron (Aidan Quinn), an Irish American lawyer, as well as the retired Thomas Connolly (Alan Bates), who was known to win a few so-called “hopeless” cases. Since this means that the Irish court will collide with the Catholic Church during the daytime, which is never suppose to happen, Desmond’s chances at winning look somewhat slim. But the testimony of young Evelyn could open the door on several instances of physical abuse applied by numerous nuns of the orphanage.

The name of the movie is Evelyn, but the movie is indeed about the father’s struggle more than anything else. Pierce Brosnan, known around the place as 007, gives a strong and riveting performance in the movie that allows him to play back into the very roots he grew up in as a man growing up in Ireland. Desmond is a complex man, being clearly both a loving capable father and a frequent alcohol abuser, and Brosnan does a splendid job of creating and illustrating the complexity.

Directed by Bruce Beresford, Evelyn is a strong piece of heartwarming storytelling that is perfect family viewing. It may get a bit too sentimental at times, but the overall impact of the movie is very high, thanks in part to Brosnan’s wonderful work.

Video ***1/2

MGM delivers their usual goods with this anamorphic transfer, for a film that indeed captures the wondrous beauty of the Irish countryside in the early 50s. Image quality is very high for the entire presentation, given one or two instances of softness though not the least bit distracting. For a film that even has a great deal of darkly lit set pieces, the presentation manages to make those moments grand as well.

Audio ***

Though mostly a piece driven by that of dialogue, the 5.1 mix on Evelyn proved to be quite a surprise. Dialogue is at an ultimate high in terms of clear delivery, and background noises, like even that of wind blowing on a country side set piece or crowds in a public bar, earn this presentation an extra credit boost.

Features ****

It’s MGM and Special Edition material, need I say any more? This disc includes the usual box of goodies from one DVD studio that really knows how to handle its Special Edition extras. There are two commentary tracks, one with director Bruce Beresford, and one with Pierce Brosnan and producer Beau St. Clair. Two documentaries are also included, “Evelyn: Behind the Scenes” and “The Story Behind the Story”, both of which are well informative and very well put together. Also featured is a photo gallery, a soundtrack spot, and a trailer.

Summary:

Evelyn is quite uplifting and much inspirational. Pierce Brosnan proves himself as a gifted dramatic actor with this heartwarming piece that is purely perfect for family viewing.