The Divine Ryans
dir Stephen Reynolds scr Wayne Johnston
with Jordan Harvey, Pete Postlethwaite, Robert Joy, Wendel Meldrum, Mary Walsh, Rick Boland, Marguerite McNeil, Genevieve Tessier, Louis Bernard, Michael Chiasson, Bryan Hennessey
release St Louis Film Fest Nov.00
99/Canada 1h46 3h out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
A lushly produced film about family secrets and bonds, Reynolds' directoral debut is full of effective moments that are quirky, hilarious and darkly moving. Even if the overall film never quite comes together. At the centre is Draper Doyle (Harvey), a boy struggling to come to terms with the sudden death of his beloved father (the excellent Joy), the black sheep of the Ryan family in St John's, Newfoundland. Draper, his mother (Meldrum) and sister (Tessier) are forced to move in with the aunts and uncles, devout Catholics who believe God is on their side. Aunt Phil (Walsh), a mortician, rules with an iron fist; Uncle Seymour (Boland), a priest, and Aunt Louise (McNeil), a nun, aren't much better; and the renegade Uncle Reg (Postlethwaite) is the only one with whom Draper can communicate.

The film's dialog is a blast of fresh air, with its witty observations and some unforgettable lines. There are also some unforgettable characters, most notably Aunt Phil, who is so hateful that we squirm in our seats whenever she's on screen. But the central relationship between Draper and Reg is what makes the film spring to life--the terrific performances and dialog draw out serious themes without ever getting maudlin. Fascinating interrelationships between all the characters are very cleverly drawn out through the performances, and the overriding hockey metaphor works surprisingly well. In the end, there's perhaps too much to make the central journey Draper takes work as well as it should--the film covers so much emotional ground that we literally laugh and cry and end up unsure how we're supposed to feel. Not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a film with so much to offer, but a bit frustrating nonetheless.

[adult themes and situations] 11.Nov.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall