It's the 1953/54 school year at St. Magnus Catholic School in Hamilton, Ontario. Fourteen year old Ralph Walker is in many ways a typical teenager. He is experimenting with smoking and is openly preoccupied with the opposite sex, which makes him the brunt of jokes amongst his male classmates and which constantly gets him into trouble with the school's strict headmaster, Father Fitzpatrick. As penance and to redirect his energies, Father Fitzpatrick orders Ralph to join the school's cross country running team under the tutelage of the school's avant-garde thinking teacher, Father Hibbert. Some of the more unusual circumstances of Ralph's life are that he lives by himself in the family home, telling the authorities that he is living with his paternal grandparents (who are in reality deceased), and telling his widowed hospitalized mother (Ralph's father was killed in the war) that he is staying with a friend. Ralph's focus in life changes after his mother falls into a coma. It will take ... Written by
Wonderful Film with 1950's Canadian Schoolboy Theme
Saint Ralph is a throwback to the wonderful films of the 1940's and 50's in which hope springs eternal, no matter the roadblocks that one may encounter along the way. However, it's never corny. It is a film with a lot of wry, gentle humor, especially for those who may have gone to parochial schools when they were staffed primarily by nuns, brothers, and priests. My wife tells me that all over the theater men of a certain age could be heard chuckling at the familiar scenes from their youth.
Lots of references pop into my head as I think about this film. I can't help but recall "Chariots of Fire", British schoolboy movies, and even "Catcher in the Rye." I believe this Canadian film could only have been made in an English-speaking Commonwealth country, possibly Britain, but certainly Canada or Australia. It's pretty definite, however, that this kind of film could never have been made in the U.S. There is a certain sensibility that we south of the Canadian border seem to have lost forever.
This movie is not perfect, but it certainly ranks as one of the most satisfying films I've seen in a very long time. The cast is uniformly good, the writing is spot on, and there is even a period of real suspense. I most heartily recommend this movie.
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