When families are torn apart, some people retire into hopelessness while others fight with every bit of power they have left. Based on a true story, “Evelyn” tells the tale of how one man’s fight for the right to keep his family led to the reversal of The Children’s Act in Ireland, thereby freeing many children who were unjustly sent away.
On Christmas Eve, circa 1950, Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan) and his three children are out caroling when he decides to fetch their mother, who has left the family for another man. An out-of-work painter with no income, the state forces Desmond to give up his children until he can ameliorate his financial situation.
Making money by singing with his father in a local pub at night and painting during the day, Desmond eventually accomplishes what he was led to believe would reunite him with his children. The law in Ireland, however, states that the signatures of both parents are required to give singular custody unless one spouse is deceased, and Desmond’s wife left no forwarding address. Now Desmond must try and reverse a law for which there is no precedent.
“Evelyn” could be described as a local color film as its cinematic presentation is deeply enriched with Ireland and its culture. From subtle nuances in the dialogue, references to Oscar Wilde and Yeats or ripping on the English and Yanks, the film oozes with “Irishness.” The importance of the local pub in terms of community is presented while Desmond is either singing or planning with his cohorts, thus adding more cultural flavor.
Accomplished by means of crosscutting and parallel development, the film presents three realities at once: Desmond, his daughter Evelyn and his two sons. Evelyn’s situation is presented more fully as she must exist in a virtual Catholic stronghold and be subjected to both the kindness and wrath of nuns. It is Evelyn who is brought into court to testify on her and her father’s behalf.
Through his love interest, Bernadette Beattie (Julianna Margulies), Desmond meets her brother Michael (Stephen Rea, “Interview with the Vampire”) and Nick Barron (Aidan Quinn) who take on his case pro bono. This trio provides the heroic force for Evelyn and all the other children who are trapped in institutions due to an unjust law.
“Evelyn,” like the actress who plays her, is short and sweet. Pierce Brosnan gives a convincing performance. Playing a near polar opposite to his James Bond persona, Brosnan appears to be attempting to step away from his famous typecast role and trying some serious acting for a change. While the film seems a bit rushed in the beginning, one is eventually able to settle in and witness the strength of love in a family that would help change a nation.