The ending casts a light on the whole film which suggests the ultimate model might be Tom Stoppard’s play Hapgood, anyway the allusion is suggested. That’s the spy-thriller jest on wave/particle theory (and the Heisenberg Principle), which depends for its solution on twins. And there’s that touching fight from Dishonored Lady.
Whether or not Beresford is up to this seems less significant than undertaking the composition of it at all in the first place.
An excessively complicated structure reveals the difficult perspective established by the director on a screenplay consciously anchored in Capra. Beresford secures the film with great sureness of technique to Capra’s disciple George Seaton, and more specifically to Miracle on 34th Street, which is about as rigorously fine as a film can be on the subject. He then, incredibly, adds into the account for a further point of perspective the remake of Seaton’s film, which puts his Fifties period drama squarely in the mindset of contemporary Hollywood, such as it is and in more ways than one.
Harris in Pollock took on the “dark side” biography for a further note, why should he breast the breaking wave without making it into a formal element of the work?
Consequently, there’s always a little more going on in Beresford’s film than sometimes appears, until he cuts away to a boy kicking a ball and tracks to a fine perspective of the Christian Brothers in Kilkenny, or introduces religious characters into the drama as statuary at the nuns’ school where the title character is sent by the State. “Priest-ridden” Ireland is the theme, and it comes very near to Fanny and Alexander, but the nearest thing to a villain is the “gobshite” Minister of Education who won’t hear appeals to his ruling in the case of an abandoned husband left with three children. The case is very gradually elevated from the violence and keening of a ne’er-do-well to judiciously brave and bold steps that culminate in Supreme Court action on constitutional grounds.
The multiplicitous perspective is capable of adducing great surprises, as when the mother-in-law drops years of hostile silence to exclaim from the gallery against a punishing nun that it were better the girl were with her father than this, and she’ll see her outside. The majesty of the law comes its way down corridors full of intrigue and inertia, making a settled appearance, after testimony is heard which includes little Evelyn’s sober prayer for the furtherance of wisdom in the Irish State.
In the end, Beresford’s approach to the case adds an all but unforeseeable element of our own time as stylistic touches to the historical account so that the peculiar sting of it should not be lost, evidently to no avail with the great public and the great critics.