Daily Variety 
September 30, 2002, Monday 

LENGTH: 669 words 

HEADLINE: Evelyn 

BYLINE: EDDIE COCKRELL 

BODY: 
(Ireland-U.K.) 

A United Artists release (in U.S.), in association with First Look Media and Cinerenta, of an Irish DreamTime production. (International sales: Overseas Film Group, Santa Monica.) Produced by Pierce Brosnan, Beau St. Clair, Michael Ohoven.  Executive producers, Eberhard Kayser, Mario Ohoven, Kieran Corrigan, Simon Bosanquet. Co-producer, Paul Pender. 

Directed by Bruce Beresford. Screenplay, Paul Pender. Camera (color, widescreen), Andre Fleuren; editor, Humphrey Dixon; music, Stephen Endelman; production designer, John Stoddart; art director, Ian Bailie; costume designer, Joan  Bergin; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Brendan Deasy. 

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations),
Sept. 11, 2002. Running time: 93 MIN.
Desmond Doyle.....Pierce Brosnan 

Nick Barron.....Aidan Quinn 

Bernadette Beattie..... Julianna Margulies 

Michael Beattie.....Stephen Rea 

Evelyn Doyle..... Sophie Vavasseur 

Tom Connolly..... Alan Bates 

An unexpectedly raffish air and an atmospheric production are the hallmarks of "Evelyn," the true-life saga of an Irish father who bucked the system in 1953 to regain legal custody of his children in a groundbreaking court case.  Co-produced by star Pierce Brosnan for his Irish DreamTime banner (the shingle's third outing, after "The Nephew" and  "The Thomas Crown Affair"), pic's feel-good approach to the schematic David-and-Goliath story renders it a decent  mainstream title for UA, with good if unspectacular ancillary to follow. 

Brosnan plays Desmond Doyle, a hard-working but perpetually poor painter and decorator who moonlights singing in pubs with his dad and lives with his family in Dublin's Fatima Mansions housing estate. When his wife walks out on him  and his three kids for another man, church and state gang up to remove his kids, split them up and send them to different orphanages. 

As little Evelyn Doyle (Sophie Vavasseur) learns to adjust to life surrounded by nuns both good and bad, Desmond first tries desperately to steal his kids back, then vows to assemble a legal dream team to take on the Irish courts. He meets  skeptical lawyer Michael Beattie (Stephen Rea) through the jurist's barmaid sister Bernadette (Julianna Margulies). 

Beattie is shocked to see American colleague Nick Barron (Aidan Quinn) take an interest in the case (a divorce separated him from his own children) --- and a fancy to Bernadette, who's also pitching woo with Des. But it isn't until the attorneys  successfully lure footballer-turned- superstar- barrister Thomas Connolly (Alan Bates) out of retirement to shake up the system that they appear to have any kind of chance to revise the existing law. 

A sprightly pace and a fatalistic sense of humor propel the proceedings over a generous amount of drinking jokes and other cliches of Irish life and culture. Though a legal win looks extremely unlikely up until the final reel, emotional pitch of  pic leaves little doubt that Doyle and his cause will triumph, and he even gets an "I'm a better person" speech to the packed courtroom that defiantly drips of Capra-corn. 

Reuniting after African-set, 1991 "Mr. Johnson," vet director Bruce Beresford and Brosnan are completely in synch with the material. The star plays Doyle as just rough enough around the edges to warrant the character's setbacks, but not  so unpleasant that the twinkle in his eye is extinguished or his ability to love and care for his kids would come into question. 

All other perfs are in the underdog spirit of the proceedings, with Quinn particularly relaxed and appealing as the Yank ambulance chaser and Bates having a grand old time as the eccentric elder jurist. Only John Lynch as opposing counsel  in the climactic courtroom battle seems underserved by the otherwise obvious script. 

Lead by Andre Fleuren's warm, widescreen lensing, tech package is fine, with most principle craftspeople returning from previous Beresford productions. The Irish brogues are a bit much at first, but flatten out as pic proceeds. 

LOAD-DATE: September 29, 2002 
Copyright 2002 Reed Elsevier Inc.


The Davis Enterprise
By Derrick Bang/Enterprise entertainment editor

Four stars: Lots of films come out at Christmas, but very few are Christmas films.
This is one of them.

"Evelyn," perhaps originally selected by co-producer/star Pierce Brosnan as a means of securing big-screen legitimacy outside his activities as James Bond, succeeds far better than even he could have anticipated. Both a poignant family love story and the stirring saga of one man's efforts to best an unfeeling and impregnable system, "Evelyn" is the fact-based saga of Desmond Doyle (played here by Brosnan), a working-class father who through no fault of his own lost custody of his children, and then found that the Catholic Church and Irish courts had little interest in returning them.
In terms of the entrenched cruelty, one would think such a tale the product of repressive 19th century behavior -- something Charles Dickens would have condemned, in one of his novels -- but in fact these events took place in post-WWII Ireland. The film's narrative begins on Christmas Eve 1953, and progresses toward the following Christmas, in 1954.

Along the way, scripter Paul Pender illuminates the behavior of callous social institutions more concerned with justifying themselves and maintaining the status quo, than worrying about justice or moral behavior. What's worse, of course, is that many of these mid-level bureaucrats genuinely believe that their actions serve a greater good, and that individual tragedies can be overlooked in the interests of preserving the system.

Doyle's troubles clearly have been brewing for a long time, but they climax on the eve of Father Christmas' visit to the humble home he shares with his wife, Charlotte (Mairead Devlin), and their three young children: Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur), Dermot (Niall Beagan) and Maurice (Hugh MacDonagh). Despite being out of work -- our protagonist is a painter and decorator, by trade -- Doyle nonetheless provides the best Christmas morning possible, and the tiny quarters in Dublin's notorious Fatima Mansions grows cheerier with the arrival of his father, Henry (Frank Kelly).
Charlotte, clearly dissatisfied with everything, clandestinely steals the family's limited funds that evening, and is gone with the next morning's dawn ... never to return. The clearly shocked Evelyn, clutching the cloth doll that's probably her sole toy, witnesses this departure and immediately chooses sides. When her father brings some Christmas pudding that evening, in an effort to get Evelyn to eat something, the little girl shakes her head.

"She made it," Evelyn says, and suddenly Doyle loses his appetite, as well.

While perhaps intending to help, Doyle's mother-in-law precipitates the crisis by reporting her daughter's abandonment to the authorities. Both the Catholic Church and the Irish courts step in, take note of Desmond's absence of a regular paycheck, and order the children to be sent to church boarding schools: Evelyn in one, the two boys in another. Desmond is led to believe that he'll get them back as soon as he secures regular work, but this proves inaccurate; he's eventually told, in fact, that his kids will remain in their respective institutions until their 16th birthdays.
The system then retreats behind an imbecilic legal technicality: that restoring the children to Desmond requires the consent of both parents.

Devastated beyond words, believing that his very reason for existence has been ripped away, Desmond allows his casual drinking to escalate dangerously. He's rescued from this self-destructive path by a new friend, Bernadette Beattie (Julianna Margulies), who recommends that Desmond see her solicitor brother, Michael (Stephen Rea). Although Michael is immediately sympathetic, he's wary of tackling so formidable a foe -- the Catholic Church being the very foundation of Irish law -- and hedges until Doyle's cause also is embraced by an American lawyer friend, Nick (Aidan Quinn), and Nick's mentor, Tom Connolly (Alan Bates), a feisty rugby player-turned-legal advocate.

Their idealism and strategy thus in place, these four pawns resolutely link arms and prepare for battle against the full complement of pieces at the far side of the chess board.

Pender and director Bruce Beresford, working from Evelyn Doyle's book ("Evelyn: A True Story"), have simplified and compressed these events -- in actuality, for example, the real Desmond Doyle sought work in England, and only discovered that his children had been consigned to state "care" after returning to Ireland -- retaining just enough to construct a shamelessly poignant and thoroughly engrossing saga of an Irish David against an ingrained Goliath.

Our heroes are a motley and thoroughly lovable crew, starting with sleepy-eyed Stephen Rea, a deceptively morose but nonetheless endearing legal scholar who prides himself on his sartorial skills, and repeatedly insists that Desmond would do well to emulate his manner of dress. Bates chews up the scenery quite stylishly, as a retired nonconformist with a roaring, full-blooded enthusiasm for hopeless causes.

Margulies makes a properly fetching and loyal potential love interest, and Quinn delivers a similarly strong sense of conviction. (Although mostly raised in the United States, Nick is Irish-born, and therefore just as indignant on behalf of Desmond, a fellow countryman.)

The film's heart, though, belongs squarely to Brosnan and young Sophie Vavasseur, a spunky, radiant little girl given to the sort of selfless benevolence that Hayley Mills routinely displayed in 1960's "Pollyanna." Evelyn undoubtedly is too good to be true -- finding compassion even for the repressively cruel Sister Brigid (Andrea Irvine) -- but no less endearing, and Beresford knows just when to go for a tight close-up on Vavasseur's expressive little face, with its vivacious blue eyes.
Brosnan runs through quite a range, from good-natured drunk to anguished parent, with stops in between that include discouragement and wary hope. He's much too handsome by half, of course -- one imagines that the actual Desmond Doyle was a much scruffier fellow -- but, even so, Brosnan looks and sounds authentic as an honest man who rises to the occasion, thanks to the power of simple indignation.

Yes, the presentation is predictable and sometimes trite; this is the sort of film where you just know that somebody will note that "law and justice are two different things." But the traditional presentation does not diminish the significance of the events depicted here, and -- in any event -- most viewers aren't likely to care. "Evelyn" is a marvelous little movie, a feel-good experience that deserves to pack 'em in over the Christmas break.

On top of which, I immediately ordered a copy of Evelyn Doyle's book ... so what more should a filmmaker want?


Kansas City Kansan
Battling the court 
Steve Crum / Crum On Film
Jan 17, 2003

Two movies are covered this week: one involves three children, and the other three women. Both center on human compassion. 

"Evelyn" -- This movie is based on the true story of Desmond Doyle, who in 1954 Ireland began a court battle to regain custody of his three children.

Doyle's wife abandoned the family to live with her lover in London. After his wife's mother reports that her grandchildren are now without their mother's care, both the court and Catholic Church immediately place the children in orphanages. After considerable trouble in finding anyone who would have the brashness to fight Irish law, Doyle finally contracts an attorney with his same passion.

Pierce Brosnan plays Doyle quite impressively in an unglamorous role far from James Bond. He fights his own alcoholism as he challenges the laws to get his kids back. Aiden Quinn portrays his lawyer.

The film's final act segues into a Frank Capra-like rouser with the entire community rooting for Dad Doyle. That old-fashioned spirit and resolve work well in a movie like "Evelyn." Evelyn, incidentally, is Doyle's only daughter, a 9-year-old played with Oscar-caliber bravura by Sophie Vacasseur. 

Rated PG for thematic material and language; GRADE: B.


Palm Beach Post
By Leslie Gray Streeter, 
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 4, 2003

For most of the year, Tinseltown gave us the cinematic equivalent of black roses and chocolate-covered maggots. But the recent crop of Oscar-bait holiday flicks are a thing of beauty, and I've got five examples to prove my point. Talk about Christmas every day!

Evelyn

This true tale of a suddenly single Irish father's fight to reclaim his kids from the Catholic Church is basically a Lifetime movie with a bigger budget and a better cast (read: no Valerie Bertinelli). It pulls out all the heartstring-tugging stops -- painfully cute children, mean teachers, dedicated lawyers and quirky townsfolk. 

What sets Evelyn apart from "movie of the week" territory? The single dad is played by the lovely and talented Pierce Brosnan, who should track down People's "Sexiest Man Alive" winner Ben Affleck and snatch back the title that is so rightfully his.

When the rest of the movie is lapsing into schmaltzdom, Brosnan's Desmond Doyle is a real, flawed human being. He's a guy who drinks a little too much and gets by partly on his charm and swooniness. But in the end, Desmond loves his kids and is willing to fight tirelessly to get them back.

Sure, the flick does everything but reach into the audience, squirt onion juice in your eyes and scream, "Weep, you bastards!" Brosnan's so good, though, that I didn't feel completely ashamed for tearing up. Then again, I have no shame.
 

Antwone Fisher 

Speaking of weeping, here's Denzel "Oscar Winner" Washington's directorial debut. Like Evelyn, it's a sob-inducing true story of a child separated from his or her family. But where Evelyn seems a wee glossy, Antwone Fisher is sometimes uncomfortably in-your-face. It follows the painful young life and gradual redemption of Antwone Fisher, an angry young Navy man who must make peace with the horrible things that have happened to him before he can believe in himself. Yes, that sounds sappy. But it's not.

Derek Luke, who plays the grown Antwone, works because he seems like a real guy. He actually reminds me of some of my cousins.

There's nothing actor-y or showy about him; he wears his pain in his beautiful face and his strong shoulders. But he's able to go toe-to-toe with the fiercely intense Denzel, who plays his therapist. Any actor who can take your eyes off Denzel is worth noticing.
 

Gangs of New York 

Boy, was this violent! Gripping, gorgeously shot and well-acted. But way bloody. Then again, what should you expect from a movie with the word gangs in the title?

Yet another historically-based flick, Gangs stars a furry Leonardo DiCaprio as Irish-American thug Amsterdam Vallon. Amsterdam returns to the mean streets of 1860's New York to avenge the death of his father at the hands of crazed and criminally coiffed bad guy William "Bill the Butcher" Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis).

Bill is the leader of a group of so-called "nativists" who fiercely guard their home against the immigrants (and blacks) who might threaten their supremacy and jobs. And they're willing to do that by any means necessary, as Malcom X would say. Of course, Bill and Malcolm wouldn't have gotten along. But I digress.

Besides gritty performances by everyone involved, including Leo, Lewis and (surprise!) Cameron Diaz, Gangs is a welcome reality smack in the head to anyone with fantasies about this nation's origins.

It's always been bloody, there's always been hate and the ones wielding the weapons aren't just of one racial group or nationality. OK, I'm stepping down from the pulpit now. And not a moment too soon, because these heels are beginning to hurt.
 

Catch Me If You Can

While we're on the Leo tip, let me reiterate what I said in my "Top 10" column. DiCaprio is the man. And I can't even say that he's getting better, because the kid was already good. Just as in What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, he makes you laugh and then guts you in the next moment. I think it's that vulnerable man-child thing he has happening, that makes you want to take care of him, even when he's robbing you blind.

I saw a dumb ad for this movie that called it "fun." Though it has fun parts, that's misleading, because teen con Frank Abagnale's life is fueled by pain, youthful arrogance and major fraud. And schmaltz king Steven Spielberg doesn't shy away from the truth that, charming as Frankie is, he's still breaking the law.

But what a smooth criminal he is.
 

Chicago

She cheesed me off in Entrapment. And America's Sweethearts was just cheesy. But after watching what Catherine Zeta-Jones can do with a Louise Brooks haircut, a skimpy chorus-girl outfit and her amazing pipes, I'd be willing to forgive her anything. Mrs. Michael Douglas is the very best thing in the celluloid version of Bob Fosse's classic, and since everything about it is fantastic, that's saying a lot.

You know how, every couple of years, critics say that musicals and/or westerns are about to make a comeback? American Outlaws and Texas Rangers stiffed like a giant can of spray starch, so I can't vouch for the cowboys. But Chicago certainly makes a case for big-screen singing and dancing.

The music's great, the hoofing is first-rate (Richard Gere rocks!) and everybody just looks fantastic. The standouts include Renee Zellweger as killer chorus wanna-be Roxie Hart, Queen Latifah as mercenary prison matron Mama Morton and John C. Reilly as Roxie's sad sack hubby, Amos.

Bonus: Taye Diggs doing... who the devil cares what he's doing? It's Taye Diggs!


Voice Online
Father Knows Best! 
By ROBERT WALDMAN 

Parenting comes under the microscope in Evelyn, a heartfelt new movie from United Artists and First Look Pictures now on view at Vancouver's Tinseltown (on Pender, free parking) and select Famous Players Silver City cites. 

Family law matters serve to draw wedges between husbands and wives - not to mention the children. Add religion into the mix and the combination can be catastrophic. Ireland forms the backdrop for a tearful tale of a family torn apart by infidelity and inhumanity at the hands of an outdated justice system in Evelyn. 

Down on his luck Desmond Doyle tries to make ends meet by doing various odd jobs while supporting three young childen and wife Charlotte. Not satisfied, Charlotte one day decides to take a flyer on a roguish Brit, leaving poor downtrodden Desmond in charge of trying to cope with three young kids. Hardly father of the year material, the hard drinking chain smoking unshaven dad does try to do his best but a pesky relative decides to make his life even more difficult than it already is. 

Trying to help Desmond raise the young kids while mom is away is his dad Henry, a decent guy who'd always there in the crunch. Unfortunately neither men can do anything when the state sends in the children's protection authorities to "evaluate" Desmond's fathering abilities. Without a regular job and a steady income the justice in charge of a family hearing decides its best for the kids to be sent away - until Desmond can find meaningful, long-term work. 

Shocked to the heart, Desmond reluctantly helps his sons move to a boy's home while daughter Evelyn gets left at a school run by nuns. Helpless to intervene, Desmond returns to Dublin to find what little consolation he can with visits to the bar. While he tries to drown his sorrows in ale daughter Evelyn becomes subjected to abuse at her new imposed residence. Cries of help largely go unanswered until dad gets wind of his daughter's sorry plight. Like any father Desmond tries to intervene but the rule of law prohibits him from simply taking his daughter back home. 

Hurt beyond belief Desmond gets some friendly advice from neighbourhood waitress Bernadette Beattie. Luckily this lass knows a lawyer and finally Desmond locks onto Michael Beattie, her learned brother. Reluctant to take the case to reunite the family finally a visiting colleague seeks to intervene. By all accounts American Nick Barron has no business challenging the Irish law that so befuddles the Doyle clan. 

Once the media hounds learn of the plight of this tireless, victimized father the case becomes a cause celebre with the entire country seemingly on Doyle's side. Too bad the stuffy justices don't want to give an inch no matter how noble the cause. 

Standout portrayals of a family on the ropes make Evelyn a wonderful joyful event that exposes the rigidity of a flawed legal system and the lengths champions of justice must go to right a wrong. Director Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) knows how to create atmosphere and mood and here puts forth an exciting tale of a father's desire to rescue his children. 

Believe it or not James Bond himself, Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day) sheds his licence to kill image completely to put forth a heroic portrayal of a wounded father who will use his last breath (and shilling) to get back his family. Out to help him are a trio of legal aces brought to light by terrific actors Aidan Quinn (Blink), Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) and Alan Bates (The Sum of All Fears). Consider them Ireland's dream team when it comes to defending the downtrodden. 

Also in Desmond's corner as barkeep Bernadette is Julianna Margulies (Ghost Ship). Perhaps outshining all these accomplished veteran actors is young Sophie Vavasseur (Reign of Fire). Nine years and counting, this young girl has all the class and presence to emerge as a bonafide star in years to come. She'll easily steal your heart away. 

Many parents have marital break-ups which often leave any children in the lurch. Archaic, uncaring justice systems only serve to complicate and compound the trauma and problems such separations precipitate. Evelyn points to the pain and suffering of the innocents and offers a smart solution to remedy such tragedies - along with a civilized way to settle the score. 

Rating: * * * 



 
 

Express Newspapers: Daily Star 
March 21, 2003
By: Alan Frank

007 IS SO STIRRING AS A DAD 

EVELYN (PG) 

A COMPELLING performance from Pierce Brosnan makes this factbased drama hugely watchable. 

He plays a single dad who takes on the might of the Irish constitution in the 1950s to fight for custody of his three  children. Forget 007 - Pierce stretches his acting muscles as he changes from boozer to campaigner. 

He aims to rescue his two sons and daughter from the orphanages they were sent to after their mother walked out on the family. 

The suspenseful courtroom climax will have you cheering. 

The script is charming and well-characterised while Alan Bates, Julianna Margulies and Aidan Quinn turn in engaging supporting turns. 

VERDICT: 7/10 

 


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