Evelyn ★★★½

Evelyn, to me, proves that with the right actors, you can make middling material very watchable. With a cast that includes the talents of Pierce Brosnan, Aidan Quinn, Stephen Rea, Julianne Margulies, Alan Bates and Frank Kelly, it's unsurprising to note that, while the material itself isn't of the highest quality (yes, the narrative is well structured, it's paced well and the story is touching, much of the actual dialogue is very hokey), they really do make the most of it. I'm a fan of Brosnan, and he really does shine in this film, especially in the scenes where he has little to say. I don't mean that as a backhanded compliment, but rather he really does emote using his facial expressions (and the occasional grunt), in a way that's extremely poignant, in particular in the scenes he shares with Sophie Vavasseur, the eponymous character. Vavasseur herself is a very capable child actor, and she ably steps up to the challenge of playing a tricky role.

There's stuff I didn't like. First off, Bruce Beresford is not Irish and unfortunately fell into some of the clichés of Oireland, but that didn't bother me too much. In addition, it's based on a true story, which the film has highly sanitised, which I view as a shame, as the real story is much more morally ambiguous. Yes, the real Desmond Doyle was a brave and loving father who fought against the tremendously powerful apparatus of a state determined not to allow single fathers rights and came out the victor, but he also beat his wife, and that's why she left him. We never saw her side of the story, and more's the pity, as it would have injected the necessary bitterness and murky morality a film like this would have benefited from.

That said, for what the film actually is, sure, it's sentimental, predictable, well meaning fluff, with the occasional unforgivable descent into pure cheese, but it's executed with panache by the cast, and for all its faults, I enjoyed it. It's a lot funnier than I expected it to be (mostly courtesy of Des's father Henry, played by the wonderful Frank Kelly, most famous of course as Father Jack in Father Ted), and it does have some powerful dramatic moments, it's just a shame because it could have been so much more.

Also, not that it's relevant to anything, but Pierce sings a lot in this film, and it's not half bad. I wonder if he was dubbed over by a skilled mimic, or did his voice just deteriorate wildly from this film to Mamma Mia!. Who knows.