Starring-Adam Butcher, Campbell Scott
Scott’s Review #1,118
Reviewed March 3, 2021
Saint Ralph (2004) is an indie drama that is overly sentimental with too many added standard plot points. This makes the film ho-hum and extremely cliched. It feels like the attempt was to create a major studio film in independent clothes but without the grit afforded most indies. There is plenty of ordinary setups and by the numbers, follow-through over anything different or fresh.
The film is too charming and safe for my tastes and is too feel-good. Maybe there are just too many similar types of movies made that it doesn’t stand out very well. And since it’s an indie shouldn’t it strive for more edginess?
The message is meant to inspire and in a way it does but that only goes so far. Saint Ralph is a story of a young man triumphing over insurmountable odds- wonderful but unrealistic. The religious elements of faith, miracles, and the Catholic high school are lost on me but some may champion those elements better.
I did enjoy the 1950s time-period and its share of decade trimmings and set pieces yet too often they felt stagey and any authenticity doesn’t feel fresh. Rather, like actors clad in period clothing.
The lead kid who plays Ralph (Adam Butcher) isn’t impressive enough though Campbell Scott who plays a priest with more wisdom than he probably should have is the best thing about Saint Ralph.
If I’m being harsh it’s unintentional but Saint Ralph is a film I’ve forgotten about a day or so after seeing. I like a film that sticks with me and makes me think about and Saint Ralph just ain’t it. It’s classified as a tear-jerker and I didn’t shed one.
Ralph is a troubled kid. His father has died in World War II and his mother lies ill in a coma. He smokes and masturbates resulting in adult intervention by way of strict Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent) and kindly Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott). He is encouraged to run in the upcoming Boston Marathon and he trains mightily with the right encouragement.
He feels if he trains hard and wins the marathon his mother will be granted a miracle by God, wake up from her coma, and live happily ever after. I won’t spoil the ending but the conclusion will satisfy pious audiences.
I embrace films that feature a character championing certain hardships and Saint Ralph does contain a youthful innocence and earnestness that holds some appeal. I felt myself rooting for him to overcome his problems. No kid deserves those hardships.
The weakness is that I felt manipulated. Since the intention was to root for Ralph it was clear what direction the film was going in and the predictability was at an all-time high.
The training sequences are reminiscent of any sports film. Think of a young Rocky Balboa training for an upcoming fight. And the saccharine ending is riddled in predictably.
Saint Ralph (2004) will ruffle no feathers and only appeal to mainstream audiences seeking safe cinema. Most people will not remember it very well.