Movie Review: ‘Evelyn: Based on a True Story’ (2002)
Stars Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Vavasseur and Julianna Margulies
By Jennifer Anne F. Messing
In 1950s Ireland, Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan) is taken by surprise when his wife runs away with another man, abandoning him and their three young children. When local authorities discover that Desmond is unemployed and that there is no wife at home to care for his children, they deem it necessary to take the kids out of Desmond’s guardianship temporarily and place them in Church-run orphanages until Desmond is able to secure and prove stable employment. This touching, intelligent family drama directed by Bruce Beresford is based on a real-life story.
Although Desmond is not a perfect man, he is a loving father who enjoys a very good relationship with his three children, and who is quite attached to his oldest who is a girl, Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur). Naturally, Evelyn and her two younger brothers, who are hurting emotionally because of losing their mother, become devastated when they learn they’re going to be separated from their father.
Evelyn soon arrives at the orphanage for girls and her brothers are sent to an orphanage for boys. The nuns at Evelyn’s school are strict and some of them are not kind.
Over the next few months, Desmond tries to find gainful employment and strives to overcome his bad habits in order to become a better father. Times are hard in Dublin, Ireland, and Desmond later encounters obstacles in gaining back the custody of his children. With the help of his two friends, Bernadette Beattie (Julianna Marguiles), and Nick Barron (Aidan Quinn), who is a lawyer, Desmond petitions in court for the return of his children.
Desmond is disheartened at the outcome in the city court, but Nick Barron advises him that petitioning the case in the Supreme Court may help. Shortly thereafter, Desmond, Bernadette, and Nick solicit the help of Tom Connolly (Stephen Rea), an ex-barrister, who is now retired. Tom is convinced that the law the government officials are using to withhold Desmond’s kids is unconstitutional and should be challenged. In the weeks to come Desmond and his kids must wait patiently and their faith is challenged as Desmond’s case is brought to the Supreme Court in a long and drawn out, suspenseful court-battle.
Pierce Brosnan delivers a serious and compelling performance as Desmond Doyle, and young Sophie Vavasseur plays Evelyn Doyle with skill and believability. All of the supporting cast are well-chosen. The dialogue, which is very dramatic in some instances, is well-written and not overdone.
Evelyn is a heartwarming and inspiring drama that may bring some tears to your eyes. What is most endearing is to see the deep love of a father for his children—what lengths a man will go through, what obstacles he’s willing to overcome to provide for and express love to his children. There are ways that children motivate their parents to become better people, responsible citizens who are less self-centered and more “other-centered.” Sometimes, too, parents can underestimate the maturity level of children. Evelyn Doyle, despite her tender years, displays remarkable maturity and grasp of her faith when she testifies in court.
Evelyn is a movie that strongly affirms the importance of fatherhood and the key role a father has in imparting emotional wholeness and stability to his children. In Proverbs 17:6 (NASB) we read, “The glory of sons is their fathers.”
Parents are advised that there are some scenes where parental input is strongly suggested to help younger children better understand thematic material. Overall, Evelyn is a wonderful, family-oriented film that can be enjoyed by adults and kids of all ages.
Movie trailer: ‘Evelyn: Based on a True Story’ (2002) stars Pierce Brosnan, Sophie Vavasseur and Julianna Margulies
Family Drama/Inspirational. PG for thematic material and language. Appropriate for family viewing. 1h 35 min. United Artists/First Look Media, 2002. Check your favorite online streaming service, movie rental source, or the public library for availability.
About the Author
Jennifer Anne Fabregas Messing is a multi-published author, poet, and creative writing teacher who has a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Religious Education. A past president of the Oregon Christian Writers, she has over 200 articles, short stories, and poems published in 60 magazines, including: The Storyteller, The Gem, LIVE, The Proverbs 31 Woman, and The East County Gazette. Originally from the Philippines, Jennifer Anne and her husband have three young adult children and reside in Oregon, USA.
You can read her movie review column on the 2nd Friday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.