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Our Fathers (2005)

R | | Drama | TV Movie 21 May 2005
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A dramatized account of the hidden sexual abuse and scandal that shook the foundation of the Catholic Church, and the characters, events, and policies that brought the abuse and scandal into existence.

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(book), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Bishop Murphy
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Father Doyle
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Daniel Kibbe
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Patrick McSorley (as James Oliver)
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Pope John Paul
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Damien Atkins ...
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Tom Blanchette
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Bernie McDaid
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Storyline

In the 1970s and 1980s a scandal was brewing in the Boston diocese of the Roman Catholic Church. Pedophile priests, especially Father John Geoghan, were sexually molesting young boys. Although the Cardinal at the time, Bernard Law, was made aware of the evil acts committed by Geoghan & other priests, he sided with the priests and quietly moved them from one church to the next, and kept the matter a secret from the authorities. Years later, the victims start to come forward, and a lawyer sues Cardinal Law & the diocese for hiding the crimes from the authorities. Cardinal Law arrogantly defends his behavior, and refuses to resign. Meanwhile, Father Geoghan is found guilty and sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Will the Cardinal resign now...or continue to try to hold onto his position? Written by medic249a2

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The catholic church in an age of scandal.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, including some graphic depictions of sexual abuse | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

21 May 2005 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Escândalo Oculto  »

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Box Office

Budget:

CAD 14,340,000 (estimated)
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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Near the end of the film Cardinal Bernard Law ( Christopher Plummer ) watches the movie Becket (1964) starring Richard Burton. Plummer had starred in the original stage production of Becket alongside Burton. See more »

Quotes

Cardinal Bernard Law: [To Olan] The church didn't fail you. I failed you.
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User Reviews

 
Some very good performances but, overall, a bit of a disappointment
31 May 2005 | by See all my reviews

"Our Fathers", which is based on the book by David France, deserves an epic-size treatment of the sexual abuse of children by some clergy members within the Boston Archdiocese and the politics within the Catholic Church on this matter.

The movie is not as powerful as it could have been. That is not to say screenwriter Thomas Michael Donnelly and veteran director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, The Winds of War, War and Remembrance) totally failed. The scenes of abuse were handled with great sensitivity, they were not gratuitous or exploitive.

There are some very heartbreaking moments which include Ellen Burstyn as the mother of seven children who were all abused by one priest. Burstyn only appears in the film for only a few minutes but she makes the most of her scenes. (Update: If the group that awards the Emmys wanted to nominate a short but powerful performance by Burstyn, it should have been this one not the 14 second performance in Mrs. Harris. But I digress.)

Also of note, Chris Bauer who plays Olan Horne, one of the victims. He has a scene in which he is taunted by a couple of insensitive men at a local deli. When he graphically describes to them how he was abused, I was almost in tears. Bauer was a standout.

Christopher Plummer does a good job playing Cardinal Bernard Law. It would have been very easy to play him as a caricature (which, in my opinion, is what happened with the actors who portrayed the young and adult Fr. Geoghan) and Plummer somehow gave him some sympathetic qualities which made him a bit more complex.

My main issue with the movie was the decision by the screenwriter and the director to put so much weight on the legal aspects of the case and the news media's part of reporting the story. It does not mean that those aspects of the story should be ignored. Perhaps it had more to do with the source material. Author David France covered the crisis when he was a senior editor at Newsweek.

Because of this, despite some good scenes, I thought Ted Danson performance as Mitchell Garabedian was problematic. I was unable to connect with his character because I was paying more attention to the victims and the clergy. To me, Garabedian is a secondary character who was placed in a lead role. Also, I was very unimpressed with the scenes involving the reporters at the Boston Globe. It felt like a poor imitation of "All The President's Men".

There should have been more stories about the adult victims and their families and how these abuses affected their lives. I wished they would have delved more into the politics of the Catholic Church and why the church failed the victims and the reactions of parishioners and how their faith was shaken by this controversy.

I also believe that if the movie was performed chronologically and not used flashbacks, it would have been even more powerful and effective. While watching "Our Fathers", I kept thinking about the landmark, two-part film "The Boys of St. Vincent" (1992 and 1993), which told the true story of the sexual abuse of children at a orphanage in Newfoundland, Canada. The orphanage was run by a religious community. The movies also showed how it affected the victims, their families and the abusers 15 years later.

Also, I found Brian Dennehy's performance as Father Dominic Spagnolia, the clergyman who publicly criticized Cardinal Law and the Boston Archdiocese's handling of the sexual abuse claims but also had skeletons in his own closet, fiercely charismatic and totally fearless. Dennehy has been one of my favorite actors and when he sinks his teeth into a role, watch out. However, I believe the story of Father Spagnolia deserves a movie of its own.

Overall, "Our Fathers" was well-intended but not totally successful.


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