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