Marquette Wire

March’s New Titles on Netflix: ‘Evelyn’

photo via mensmovieguide.com

photo via mensmovieguide.com

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One of the new additions to Netflix this month, “Evelyn” is based on the touching story of Desmond Doyle, an Irish carpenter who loses possession of his kids in the midst of losing his wife resulting from an affair. The characters are essential to this movie, and director Bruce Beresford certainly has the right cast for the job.

The story takes place in Ireland in 1953. Pierce Brosnan, a world-renowned movie star, finds himself in an unexpected role as the poor Irish carpenter Desmond Doyle. Doyle brings his family (a wife, two sons and a daughter) to the Christmas Eve town gathering. His wife goes to the pub while he remains with his children. At the conclusion of the night’s events, Doyle sets off to bring his wife home, only to spy her through the pub window with another man. The two return home and argue through the night as the kids eavesdrop.

Christmas Day in the Doyle household is bare. Money is not abundant, so it lacks any presents or the typical feast. As the unemployed Doyle tells one of his sons, “Santa was a bit strapped for cash this year. It costs a lot of money to feed those elves.”

The next morning, Doyle’s daughter Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur) discovers her mother leaving, bags packed, to go shopping in town. Realizing it’s an Irish holiday, the young Evelyn chases after her mother to remind her the stores are closed. She finds another man helping her mother with the bags. Then, he and Mrs. Doyle drive off, never to be seen again.

Evelyn, the wisest and most comprehensive of the Doyle children, runs to her father and they get into the car to pursue Mrs. Doyle, accompanied by a bright, out-of-place score of an acoustic guitar. Instead of following Mrs. Doyle, the next shot immediately cuts to Doyle in his mother-in-law’s home, complaining about his wife that just left him and the family.

While Doyle and his father (Frank Kelly) are conversing on the street, an officer approaches them and says the Doyle children need nuns in their home as female assistance. Doyle is eventually confronted about his abilities to financially support his family, and the children are sent away to orphanages by law.

Allow me to note that this is all covered on-screen in a brief 10 minutes. Something’s missing; the story fails to properly unfold. It hardly capitalizes on the opportunity to portray the emotional agony that Doyle fights through. Instead, the film tells the story like a highlight reel with an inappropriate musical score you would instead find in a Disney Channel film.

That’s the main problem with “Evelyn.” The story focuses on Doyle’s pursuit to regain legal possession of his children in only 93 minutes. The opportunities to create emotional attachment to the characters are simply passed up to focus on nothing in particular.

The story struggles to find a main focus. One scene shows a drunken Doyle at the pub trying to fight a priest, while the next scene shows Evelyn adjusting to the orphanage. That night, Doyle drunkenly admits his love to the bartender, who randomly shows up at his doorstep one night. Another glimpse at Evelyn’s orphanage living, then Doyle is back drinking some more. Nothing really progresses in the story for about 30 minutes.

What keeps this movie from falling dead in the water is the casting, specifically the actors’ convincing performances. Brosnan, an Irishman, has a naturally authentic accent. Kelly plays a grandfather just as anyone would expect a grandfather to be: loving, considerate and playful. The entire cast works well in collaboration and livens up whatever is happening on-screen.

“Evelyn” shows the love Doyle has for his children only very briefly; the movie depicts his love for the drink more than that for his children. The story is a good one. It’s just too short. The movie certainly could afford to spend another half hour elaborating on character traits, emotions and tragedies. “Evelyn” seems like the abridged version of a stronger film, and it’s a shame Beresford didn’t take advantage of its potential.

“Evelyn” is definitely worth a watch. There’s nothing regrettable about spending an hour and a half with this intriguing story, but it just doesn’t tell the emotional drama of Desmond Doyle as extensively as it should.

★★½ out of 4

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