Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Desmond Doyle is not the man you would expect to make Irish legal history. This is the Fifties in Dublin and Desmond's wife has run off with someone else, leaving him to bring up their three children alone.

He has his own painter decorating business, which means driving about in a battered van with his name on it and making a few bob singing in the pub, accompanied by his da on the fiddle.

The authorities consider him unfit to take care of the kids and so call in the nuns. Desmond fights for the right to be with his children and goes to a solicitor (Stephen Rea) who tells him that the law is in cahoots with the priests and justice is not a word worthy of its high esteem. "To fight church and state is to fight Goliath," he tells Desmond, who reminds him that the boy David won that one.

As well as being a producer, Pierce Brosnan plays Desmond. Bruce Beresford, the Australian who did so well with Driving Miss Daisy directs. Aidan Quinn has been imported to take the role of the good barrister and Nurse Hathaway from ER (Julianna Margulies) is the barmaid who has a sweet spot for the eejit Doyle.

Essentially, this is a courtroom drama dressed up to look like something more. The production values are of the highest and the performances attractive without being memorable. Alan Bates, as an ex-international rugby player and retired advocate is something else. He revels in eccentricity and puts the others to shame.

The film feels as if it was made for the American market. With one exception, the nuns are nothing like those in The Magdalene Sisters and Justice Ferris, who presides over the court, is too obviously cast as a villain. Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur), Desmond's eldest, is sugar-and-spice, while her granda, the fiddler, has a heart as big as a house. Sentimentality is never far away.

Despite being trapped in Bondage, Brosnan is an actor who endeavours to broaden his range. He prefers character parts to the likes of Thomas Crown. The hapless Desmond has no idea what to wear to impress a jury, how to behave with women, or the etiquette of diplomacy. Brosnan, who built his career on being good at these things, has to persuade the audience that he's forgotten. It's not easy, but he tries.

Reviewed on: 19 Mar 2003
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Pierce Brosnan plays a working-class Dubliner who changed the law in Ireland.
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Director: Bruce Beresford

Writer: Paul Pender

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Julianna Margulies, Stephen Rea, Alan Bates, Sophie Vavasseur, John Lynch, Conor Evans

Year: 2002

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US/Germany/Ireland/Netherlands/UK


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