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|Index||16 reviews in total|
This is an expertly produced film that's truly scary. With its subtle, realistic acting, the situation at the orphanage comes across as chilling, nauseating, and so very, very sad. Henry Czerny gives a stunning, expertly controlled performance as the psycho priest, and what was especially interesting to me was the way in which his character was explored in Part II, set 15 years after the abuse. A dramatist I once knew said that a writer should give "every dog his day in court," meaning that it's far more effective if a villain is shown to have some redeeming qualities or is given a chance to explain their actions. (They're supposed to be actual human beings who believe in themselves and their choices, no matter how sick, after all.) This film differs from the similarly themed "The Madgalene Sisters" in that the sadistic clergy members in that film were painted as black and white monsters. Brother Lavin is clearly a torn man (he weeps while kissing the boys) with probable abuse in his own past, and he's clearly very confused about what love is and is not. This in no way makes his actions acceptable on any level, but it does bring the viewer deeper into a textured situation. I also thought it was brave for the filmmakers to not shy away from frankly depicting the scenes of abuse. The young actors are not exploited or eroticized, but you do see them in the shower with soap suds dripping down them, etc., and since this is a film about a stark sexual situation, not simply cutting away from the physicality of its world makes it all the more more powerful. (Your skin crawls but you can't stop watching, and you truly get a sense of what these orphans are going through.) It's frightening to think that orphaned children are at the mercy of twisted institutions such as this...and sadly, always will be. An extremely memorable film that you'll only want to see once.
Horror films as such have nothing on the THE BOYS OF ST. VINCENT.
Loosely based on the Roman Catholic child molestation scandals as they
unfolded in Canada, this 1991 film was first show on Canadian
television but later shown theatrically in the United States. Directed
by John N. Smith, featuring an extraordinary cast, and boasting an
excellent script, the film is one of the most fearsome experiences you
could ever endure.
The story falls into two parts, first offering a portrait of St. Vincent, a Catholic orphanage for boys, as it existed in the early 1970s; then presenting a portrait of the various characters some fifteen years later as the original accusations of child molestation and abuse result in a high profile court case. The film focuses on a number of characters, but most particularly on Henry Czerny, who begins the film as Brother Lavin of St. Vincent--a truly dangerous pedophile who uses his position to sate his desires while also looking the other way re abuse of children by other Brothers at the orphanage. When the scandal at last breaks around him, it is quickly hushed up by the authorities, and Lavin leaves the church. Some fifteen years later he is a respected businessman, a husband, and the father of two sons when the long-forgotten and covered-up case begins to explode relentlessly in the public eye.
The cast is truly amazing here, chief among them Henry Czerny as Lavin, who creates a truly multi-layered portrait of a man at once pitiful but both vicious and dangerous. Equally amazing are the cast of children and their adult counterparts in the latter half of the film, most particularly Johnny Morina and Sebastian Spence, who play the role of Kevin as a child and an adult respectively.
Perhaps the single most impressive accomplishment of the film is the delicate balancing act director Smith achieves, a stance which does not attack the Catholic Church as an institution but which relentlessly exposes the corruption that can exist within it. The film does contain some child nudity, all of it "back shots," and while some may find this in questionable taste it is all carefully filmed and not explotational--and indeed has the effect of further demonstrating the innocence of the children while emphasizing the evil of those who abuse them.
Painful as the film it is, I cannot recommend it too strongly. It should be seen by every responsible adult, not simply for the artistry involved in its presentation, but for the warning it offers. A must see.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
This TV film in two episodes of approximately 90 minutes each is indeed a highly powerful drama of the first order. All the more so as there was no over the top interpretation; the carefully measured downplaying of intense moments throughout the entire film heightened the telling of the story to superb levels. My vote is a little above the IMDb voting average, and that in itself puts this production way up there among the best TV mini films of all time. Only a few European super-productions beat it - and not by much.
Firstly, the casting is superb. Nadia Rona has carried out an immense task as just simply every person in the film is exactly as he/she should be, right down to the minor characters. Even the photography echoed or parallelled the intentional downplaying of the drama unfolding, such that at no time is there any sense of ladelling on exaggerated scenes so as to artificially create a tense atmosphere: the simple acting and filming of each scene is magnificent.
All the actors stand out, even the secondary players, so perfect is the building of this Canadian production; from the boys right up through the priests, police inspector, investigating tribunal, archbishop, magistrate, and so on. Such that the telling of the story is at once gripping, you are rivetted to your seat, but fortunately with just enough breaks for commercials so as to let you get a beer from the fridge, light a cigarette, and think over the part you have just seen. Henry Czerny's reading of his part is magnificent; but in no way are other interpretations at all inferior: the whole cast is absolutely splendid. There is just simply no other way to describe the impact that the actors make on you. Supposedly based on real events in an orphanage in Newfoundland in the mid 70s, this film defies any attempts at being categorized as exaggerated for `popular consumption', precisely because the film was made so soberly, with such careful sensitivity, especially in the child abuse scenes, so magnificently photographed, that you accept the story as it is being told.
In case you should have any doubts: I myself can remember my unhappy years in a children's home in South London (U.K.) in the mid-fifties when I was about 10 - 11 years old. There was no sex abuse, true, but there were all other kinds of vexation and cruelty. If you still do not believe me I will willingly send you by e-mail the name of the "Home" and its address. It still exists today.
This TV film stops just a little short of being a masterpiece. When it ends you should rise to your feet and give it an ovation. Most definitely a courageous indictment, so exquisitely handled: otherwise it might well have been a disaster. `The Boys of St. Vincent' is most definitely one of the best TV films I have ever seen.
This is a difficult film to watch, made even more so because it is reportedly based on fact. "The Boys of St. Vincent" is mature film making on an important subect, and should be widely seen. The "endictment' of institutional abusers may be extended to a wider sphere than that focused on in this film. The public needs to be aware of such situations, so it can act (and vote) more responsibly. This is a superior production, with astonishing performances by the youthful cast, and headed by a powerful Henry Czerny in the lead role.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Let me just say that this is possibly the finest Canadian film ever
produced. And it also foreshadows the scandal that would hit the
headlines in the US a decade later.
Although fictionalized, the movie is clearly based on the case of Mount Cashel Orphange in Newfoundland in the 1970s. The investigation into allegations of abuse by the clergy against their young charges was hushed up. And, for fear of scandal, suppressed and brought to light some years later, igniting a media firestorm.
The performances of the cast could not have been better. Henry Czerny, as Brother Peter Lavin, manages to be both repulsive and strangely sympathetic at the same time. His dominating, abusive and perverted control over the institution and the children makes his performance absolutely riveting. The other adult performers are perfectly matched, and the child actors are remarkable. When it airs on American TV, it is always heavily censored, so it is best to see it on Canadian channels, or better yet, on video and DVD. The portrayal of abuse is not overly graphic, but enough is shown so that the viewer can have no doubts as to what is taking place. When the police, headed by Detective Noseworthy (a terrific Brian Dooley) begin to investigate the abuse reports through social services, Lavin really gets nervous, but conceals this behind tremendous arrogance and defensiveness. Slowly, it is revealed that the Superintendent of St. Vincent is not the lone pedophile - many of his fellow priests also harbor a sick desire for these young boys they are supposed to protect. Johnny Morina, Brian Dodd, Ashley Billard, Jonathan Lewis, and Jeremy Keefe are touchingly vulnerable as the kids who are constantly victimized and terrified by these supposed "Men Of God". The second half, picking up fifteen years later, has the abuse coming to public attention and the people involved being rounded up to bring the case to trial. Lavin, who left the order, has married and fathered two children, and denies the allegations when he is arrested. His wife (Lise Roy), as well as the public, is torn, not wanting to believe the Church clergymen could possibly commit such heinous atrocities and cover it up. The victims, now grown men, must face the traumas and begin the process of healing by testifying at trial and confronting the horror. Sebastian Spence, David Hewlett, and Timothy Webber perfectly capture the conflicting anguish of unhealed emotional scarring. And Lavin is advised to undergo psychiatric evaluation (suggested by his attorney), which reveals some sad and surprising experiences that he has had in his relatively loveless and repressed life. The scars of both perpetrator and victim are sensitively handled.
Difficult to watch, heartbreaking, thought-provoking, and very worthwhile viewing. I recommend the book "Unholy Orders: Tragedy At Mount Cashel" by Michael Harris, regarding the actual case.
An important film.
In my opinion, this is the greatest Canadian film of all time and a true primer on Canadian cinema style. I originally saw this film as a teenager when it premiered on Canadian television in 1992 in two parts, one part on Sunday and one part on Monday. The film should be viewed in this manner, on separate days, to allow the emotions to seep in. Last year, I felt that I was ready to see the film again, and I watched it with my family. The indelible images returned, such as the raging Brother Lavin in the basement towards the end of the second hour. Please see this film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have the DVD of this movie, and it is not to be ignored. I respond to
Nicholas Rhodes form Paris, France, about 2 points:
- "The sets do appear to be dreary cold and dismal" - That's Canadian winter for you.
- The accent of Lavin's wife, Chantal: Lise Roy, who played the part, is "Québécoise", or French-Canadian.
Newfoundland and Quebec were 2 Canadian provinces where the Roman Catholic Church pretty much dominated social life for several centuries, until recent times. The Church had ample political clout to get its way more often than not.
All the posts so far have overlooked the one honorable Brother at St. Vincent: Brother McLaverty. Near the end of Part 1, McLaverty caught Lavin in the act of sodomizing Kevin Reevey, then confronted him as no one else - boy or Brother - dared (see Memorable Quotes). McLaverty had the respect of all the boys, and more than a few doubts about some of his fellow Brothers. He walked out in disgust from a celebration that was becoming too ribald for his liking. Next morning, saying grace at breakfast, he tacked on his own little addendum, and answered Lavin's challenge about it with a noncommittal "Just rambling". McLaverty deserved to become the next Superintendent after Lavin; I was disappointed that he did not - and was not even mentioned in Part 2.
Other upstanding characters include: Detective Noseworthy (nothing I can add to what's already been said); Mike Finn, the semi-literate janitor who was fired after taking the beaten Kevin to the doctor; the social worker who was denied access to St. Vincent, although she was responsible for the boys there; and the inquiry commission counsel who asked all the pointed questions.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen. Yet at the
same time it's brilliantly made and acted, and doesn't shy away from a
very unpleasant issue that some people would rather forget about - or,
much like the characters in this film, simply deny the problem exists.
The acting is almost second to none. Henry Czerny was especially brilliant as the demented pedophile priest Bro. Lavin. His portrayal of Lavin made the character loathsome and somewhat sympathetic both at the same time, though one couldn't really feel any sympathy for him until he revealed his dark past to a psychiatrist before his trial. Czerny does an excellent job of portraying a sadistic man - revealed when he instructs Bro. Glackin - "20 of the best on each hand, Brother", and a sympathetic family man in Part 2, when it was revealed that Lavin had left the clergy, married and become a father of 2 sons. Greg Thomey - who is known in Canada as a comedian on 'This Hour has 22 minutes' - was also chillingly realistic as the psychopathic, sadistic brother who viciously beat a boy with a belt, then sneers, "No tears - I shall have to continue until you show some!" This is a role that didn't seem typecast for him but he stepped into it very well. I do not know who the actor was who played the Chief of Police, but he made the role one that the audience could hate almost as much as Bro. Lavin - especially when he orders the detective to bury his original report - 'I won't have this piece of pornography in that file - I want a nice, clean report for the files', and then is seen with psycho-priest Lavin later at a fund-raising ceremony. The child actors playing the abused boys are equally convincing as their adult counterparts - you cannot help but get a sense of their helplessness and abandonment when the Chief of Police, Bro. Lavin, and senior government officials decide to bury the truth. Equally convincing is the actor who played Kevin in part 2, when he is trying to deal with the anguish left behind by the abuse, and trying to start a life with his girlfriend Sheila (Kristine Demers), who is concerned about her boyfriend's violent outburst toward an ex-roommate in a bar, his horrific nightmares - which are invaded by Bro. Lavin - and his fear of having sex with her. Demers is excellent at portraying a sympathetic loved one & confidant of someone who lived through experiences no child should ever have to endure. It was heart-wrenching to watch her start crying uncontrollably as Kevin testified against the former priest who had targeted him for his sick gratification.
As another reviewer pointed out, this does not target the Catholic Church as a whole but more the corruption that can - and apparently does - exist within it. More than a decade after this film first appeared on TV, we were learning about more abuse scandals and cover-ups perpetrated by the church in the United States - especially in Massachusetts. I can still remember first hearing about the scandal in Newfoundland, Canada that inspired the film - the Mount Cashel Orphanage, since closed - and the disgusting cover-up of that scandal.
It is unfortunate that U.S. censors heavily edited this film before it was shown on American TV. While the images of the abuse are not pornographic - nor should they be - the shots were done in a way that helps tell the story the filmmakers are trying to tell. Although they are disturbing, this is a film about a very disturbing subject.
I am pleased to see so many positive reviews for this film. Despite its ugly, sometimes graphic, always disturbing content, it tells a story that needs to be told. As a reviewer about 10 years ago said, "'The Boys of St. Vincent'...deserves to be seen". See it.
This movie is disturbing and hard to watch sometimes, but I suggest every parent who get the chance to see this movie to do it. Who are these sick people anyway? How can anyone do something like this to a little boy? That boy being thrown into the wall, whipped with a belt buckle and carried up the dark stairs is an image I will never forget. The kids give great performances, especially little Morina. Then you have Czerny as the head priest. Talk about perfect casting. A great performance. Will give you chills. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was a child-molester, playing one so well. WATCH IT.
The 1970 story is true, though the movie begins with a disclaimer, but for those who became victims, it really dates back to Not when it happened, but to the time when the Priests got caught and prosecuted. It took great courage for Director John N. Smith and his producer/writer Sam Grana to direct this deeply emotional and shocking story of prepubescent and preteen boys in an orphanage called "The Boys of St. Vincent. " Equally courageous are Henry Czerny and Johnny Molina who plays Kevin Reevey, the two main stars in this revealing tale. Czerny plays the school's director and main pedophile who hides his duel twisted and perverted nature beneath his Catholic robes. The boys themselves live in abject fear and physical terror of him and the other priests called 'Bros.' Thru daily, nightly and thereafter yearly punishment, the boys suffer dumb anguish as they pray for salvation. In some cases, the boys suffer mental, physical and ritual abuse, together with nightly sexual rape. The movie recreates as much as possible the sufferings of the boys, without becoming lurid. Their tale of woe continues until a police inspector begins to collect verbal and later physical evidence on the boys. However, in 1960-1970, the powerful Catholic Church wields it enormous power to squelch police efforts and bribe, threaten and silence everyone, even the media. The crack in the impregnable religious wall finally gave way to the voracious appetite of the piranha-like Attorneys. They finally were able to subdue the Vatican and force them to pay billions to the victims. This movie is in two parts and the second part is dedicated to the aftermath, 15 years later. As for this film, it is serious to behold and certain to become a milestone for the actors and Director. Well Done. ****
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