"Evelyn" is awash in sentimentality and doesn't care who knows it. Despite a story predictable enough to make "The Sound of Music" play like a nail-biting thriller, its heart is so much in the right place it is difficult to get really peeved at it.
Based on a true story but best described, in screenwriter Paul Pender's words, as "a fable inspired by true events," "Evelyn" is a product of star Pierce Brosnan's production company, and it is not difficult to see what caught the actor's eye.
Now an international star as a result of a quartet of suave James Bond films, Brosnan clearly relished the opportunity to play a salt of the earth individual (albeit one with a twinkle in his eye) named Desmond Doyle, an unemployed painter and decorator in 1950s Dublin with no money, no job, but three kids (the eldest is named Evelyn) he loves even more than the drink.
Brosnan loved the part so much he involved director Bruce Beresford (they'd worked together on "Mr. Johnson"), and no doubt had a hand in rounding up a high-profile group of co-stars that includes Aidan Quinn, Julianna Margulies, Stephen Rea and Alan Bates.
"Evelyn's" story was likely a draw as well. Although a single parent by necessity, his wife having deserted him, Doyle is forced by rigid laws and an unfeeling state to place his children in church-run orphanages.
Vowing "there's no bloody laws in this country going to keep me from my daughter" (yes, he really says that), Doyle uses the moral support of barmaid Margulies and the legal assistance of lawyers Quinn, Rea and Bates to take his battle to the highest courts in the land. It's hard not to root for him, but it's also hard not to wish that "Evelyn" didn't resort to treacly plot devices like having rays of sun serve as guardian angels. Doyle's story likely doesn't need the special pleading the film gives it, but there it is.
"Evelyn." Rated PG, for thematic material and language. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes. In selected theaters.