A drama based on the true story of Desmond Doyle, a man who fought a protracted battle to overturn an arcane Irish law, which caused him to lose custody of his children. As the story unfolds, Desmond appears to be a typical working-class Irishman, as his life revolves around his family--supporting his wife and young children--and is punctuated by occasional trips to the pub. His wife, however, cracks under the weight of social mores in Dublin in the fifties. Alienated, she feels little for her family and, inevitably, abandons them. Nonetheless, Desmond remains a doting dad and, despite the loss of his job, fully cares for his children with help from his widowed father. However, the well-meaning parish priest worries that Desmond cannot cope with taking care of the children on his own. Soon thereafter, Desmond finds himself in court, wherein a judge rules that he lacks "the traditional family structure" necessary to nurture his family's growth. The three children--Evelyn, Maurice and Dermot--are whisked away to orphanages. Jobless, wifeless and gutted by the loss of his kids, Desmond hits rock-bottom until a chance meeting plants in him the seeds for a hopeful future--he finds that rare bird, a lawyer unafraid to challenge the government and the Church.
When you hear that the new melodrama "Evelyn" is based on a true story about a ragged, determined dad who, abandoned by his wife, fought a brutal law to regain custody of his children — including a little daughter with an unyielding belief in human charity and decency — it sounds like a shovelful of sentimentality that even James Bond couldn't successfully battle. Yet in the person of Pierce Brosnan, he does. Though the film is spongy and drenched in sweetness, Bruce Beresford's direction is steady and well oiled. "Evelyn" has a breeziness of spirit; nothing lingers too long, for Mr. Beresford keeps the modest movie moving. — Elvis Mitchell
2002-12-13 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Evelyn