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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Evelyn

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Aidan Quinn
Director: Bruce Beresford
Rated: PG
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: December 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Julianna Margulies, Stephen Rea, Sophie Vavasseur, John Lynch, Alan Bates, Frank Kelly

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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

If James Bond had a 9-year-old daughter named Jane and Jane were kidnaped to North Korea by an enemy agent, would 007 resort to the World Court of the U.N. to get her back? Yeah, right. But what would happen if James Bond were no longer 007 but just an ordinary, flawed citizen and parent from Ireland? His daughter is not kidnaped but taken away from him according to the laws of his country, sent to an orphanage against her will. What's a guy like that to do? He could crash the orphanage and demand her return, and in fact that's exactly what he does. But he finds that no man is above the law and is not only repulsed for his attempt, but in addition the Irish courts consider his rash albeit passionate action to be a strike against him. There's only one solution: petition the courts to get the little girl back.

We mention James Bond because Pierce Brosnan is the principal character in Bruce Beresford's new movie "Evelyn," penned by Paul Pender and based (now don't get scared away by this) on a true story. This really happened in the Emerald Isle in 1953, made history, and shows that sometimes, however rarely, an ordinary David can take on a Goliath and, with determination fueled by the holiday spirit can make enough of an impression on the world to warrant a movie.

In this heartwarming holiday fare a movie that's not as witty or hip as Douglas McGrath's free adaptation of Charles Dickens's "Nicholas Nickleby" Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan) has the misfortune (or good luck depending on your interpretation) to lose his wife to another guy, who takes her away from the land of leprechauns off to remote Australia. No divorce, not even a goodbye to him or her daughter Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur) or her two sons. Stuck with a hostile mother-in-law who insists that he deserves what he got, Desmond's problems pile up when the state takes the kids to orphanages run by the church, places that are hardly Dickensian and where kids seem to have a good deal of fun but, let's face it: a child wants to be with his own folks. After gaining the interest of a solicitor, Michael (Stephen Rea) in his case and that of a barrister, Nick (Aidan Quinn), he takes his case to court with the moral backing of Bernadette (Julianna Margulies) who is fond of him, and of legal consultant Tom Connolly (Alan Bates) as well.

Using a good, solid, conventional story line without flashbacks or special effects or irrelevant soundtrack music, Beresford illustrates a case that in Ireland seems to have garnered all the interest and partisanship as did the Caine Mutiny court martial. The outcome of the case rests on a conflict between an Irish statute that insists that a parent who abandons her family must nonetheless consent to have his or her spouse take custody of a minor, and the constitution of Ireland which may or may not conflict with the statute. This actual case turns out to be Ireland's Marbury vs. Madison, involving the very first time in history that a law's very constitutionality is challenged.

Pierce Brosnan, using his native Irish dialect, is a lot more vulnerable than Bond this time around, employing the depths of a man's courage in downing glass after glass of that awful, dark Irish ale until he wises up and changes to lemonade. As the title character, little Sophie Vavasseur resembles a young Emily Watson and is as cute as Christmas, performing with a Shirley Temple charm whether slapped by a vicious nun, surrounded by lawyers and an audience in a packed courtroom, or within the loving confines of her single-father home. Only a scrooge of a critic could complain about the story's sentimentality, a writer untouched by the rays of sunshine which to the little girl resemble a message from the angels.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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