Saint Ralph

Far from the sentimental drivel you might expect given the subject matter, this amiable and heartfelt drama about an adolescent boy's attempt to rouse his comatose mother explores the meaning of faith by tapping into the original, rebellious spirit of Christianity. In addition to the usual hormonal tribulations that would beset any 14-year-old Catholic school...read more

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Reviewed by Ken fox
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Far from the sentimental drivel you might expect given the subject matter, this amiable and heartfelt drama about an adolescent boy's attempt to rouse his comatose mother explores the meaning of faith by tapping into the original, rebellious spirit of Christianity. In addition to the usual hormonal tribulations that would beset any 14-year-old Catholic school boy in '50s Canada, Ralph Walker (newcomer Adam Butcher) is dealing with a situation at home that would crush a less-determined young man. Ever since his father was killed in World War II, Ralph has been raised by his ailing mother, Emma (Shauna MacDonald). Recently, however, Emma's health has seriously deteriorated, and she's been confined to a hospital bed for weeks. Ralph assures her that he's staying with his best friend, Chester (Michael Kanev), and tells Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent), the no-nonsense headmaster of St. Magnus School, that he's being looked after by his grandparents. The truth is that his grandparents died years earlier and Ralph is living entirely on his own. When Emma slips into a coma, her attending nurse, Alice (Jennifer Tilly), tells Ralph only a miracle can save her. Not long after, Ralph's cross-country track coach, Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott), tells his team it would take a miracle for any of them to win the upcoming Boston Marathon. Convinced that this coincidence is nothing short of a divine sign, Ralph decides that winning Boston is just the miracle his mother needs. With only months to go before the race, Ralph has his work cut out for him. To help him achieve the three prerequisites necessary for a miracle to occur — faith, purity and prayer — he turns to his crush, pretty Claire Collins (Tamara Hope); for his physical training, Ralph recruits a reluctant Father Hibbert, who was himself an Olympic runner before the war. When Father Fitzgerald gets wind of Ralph's plan, he condemns such "miracle chasing" as blasphemy, and forbids Father Hibbert — who's already raised Fitzgerald's hackles by teaching Nietzsche to Ralph and the rest of his 9th-grade religion class — to coach him any further. If he refuses, Father Hibbert will be not only fired, but thrown out of the order. If Ralph dares to enter the race, he'll be thrown out of school and into a foster home. Like Nietzsche, Father Hibbert believes that the anarchist and the Christian often share a common origin, and that dictum gets right to the heart of what drives writer-director Michael McGowan's thoughtful script. Ralph's faith in God and his belief that purity and prayer can pave the way for a miracle lead him to break every rule the dictatorial Father Fitzgerald tosses in his way. In its own quiet way, McGowan's film demonstrates how sometimes the strongest acts of faith can only occur entirely outside the church.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: Far from the sentimental drivel you might expect given the subject matter, this amiable and heartfelt drama about an adolescent boy's attempt to rouse his comatose mother explores the meaning of faith by tapping into the original, rebellious spirit of Chri… (more)

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