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  • It's 1953. Ralph Walker is a student at St. Magnus Catholic School in Hamilton, Ontario. He's obsessed with sex, gets picked on and tries smoking. He's a regular 14 year old. He asks Claire Collins out but later she cancels by telling him that she wants to be a nun. His sick mother is in the hospital taken care of by nurse Alice (Jennifer Tilly). His father died in the war. He lives at home alone by lying to everybody. Strict headmaster Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent) conscripts him to run cross country coached by Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott). After his mother falls into a coma, Alice tells him that she needs a miracle. So he sets about to performing a miracle by winning the Boston marathon.

    This has an innocent kind of religious charm. The comedic touches are there but they don't always hit it out of the park. The kid is OK and everybody do their jobs. The sincere straight forward ending with the Boston marathon threw me off originally. Upon some consideration, it gives the movie a magic realism that works. It is so sincere that the movie satisfies in a deeper way.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Not many Canadian movies make it all the way to my DVD player, but invariably they are a cut above most Hollywood movies. This is one of the better ones. The writing and acting are so good, every bit of this movie is captivating. It would be hard to find one false step. And, having been a kid myself in the 1950s, and receiving some Catholic education, I can also say it is very authentic for the period.

    Previously an unknown to me, young Adam Butcher gives an award quality performance as Ralph Walker, a high school freshman in 1953 whose father is deceased and his mother is in the hospital. Although he is home alone, he has a friend with good penmanship write notes from has grandparents who supposedly are staying with him. He is a reprobate of sorts, smoking cigs every chance he gets and often confessing his various sins of the heart and "personal abuse." But Ralph loves his mother, visits her every day at the hospital, and is of course very distraught when mom lapses into a coma. The nurse (Jennifer Tilly) tells him, "It will take a miracle to get her out of the coma."

    Campbell Scott is excellent as Father George, one of Ralph's teachers who coincidentally happened to be a top marathon runner in 1936, and who teaches cross country. Ralph joins the cross country squad as a way to earn the pain of penance, hoping his reformed life and prayer will result in the miracle that will heal his mother. Fr. George casually mentions the Boston Marathon in a few months, as a joke, but Ralph takes it seriously. Expressing an interest to Fr. George, who replies, "It would take a miracle for you to win Boston." Ralph puts his and the nurse's comments together, if he can win Boston, that would be the miracle that would heal his mother.

    Not allowing anyone to dissuade him, Ralph is a pathetic runner but vows to train harder than anyone else. The very strict school master Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent) tries to put a stop to it, "A boy needs to know his place in life", but Fr. George reluctantly and in defiance agrees to coach Ralph. Meanwhile mom lies in a coma with no signs of improvement.

    MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW. Ralph wins a local race around the lake, surprising everyone but himself. Still, Boston will be a whole different story. He enters, one of the boys locks himself into the media room at school and plays the radio broadcast of the race. Near the end Ralph hangs on and runs nip and tuck with last year's Boston winner, but is nipped at the tape. Ralph finishes second, believes he has failed. But he receives a warm hero's reception at school, even the admiration of strict Fr. Fitz. He even gets the girl who had said she would become a nun. Then, his mom came out of her coma, even finishing second in Boston was a miracle!
  • jotix10019 December 2007
    Ralph Walker, the young man at the center of this story, gets more than his share of bad situations at a tender age. Ralph, who has lost his father, sees his own mother struck by a serious illness and watches her go into a coma. Ralph's spirit is never broken and never questions his bad luck the way some other teen would. Ralph is never given to despair, or emotional outbursts when he can't do much to help the situations he is thrown into. Ultimately, Ralph is a real winner, not only because he decides to do something about his life, but because he is an optimist at heart who will never be defeated.

    Michael McGowan, the Canadian creator of this enormously appealing film has gathered the right elements to make us go with him in this fantastic voyage that shows us the positive side of life. Mr. McGowan was lucky in getting Adam Kutcher to portray Ralph Walker. This young actor shows us he is a natural who under the guidance of the director, gives a tremendous performance and steals our hearts in the process.

    "Saint Ralph" is one of the best things that have come out of Canada in recent years. Campbell Scott gives a good performance as Father Hibbert, the man who guides Ralph in the right direction. The excellent Gordon Pinsent, makes the perfect head master Father Fitzpatrick, a man who is never in touch with the young people he is supposed to lead and help shape their minds into being good citizens. Jennifer Tilly, Tamara Hope, Shauna MacDonald, and Michael Kaney, are also seen in key minor roles.

    The film is highly recommended because it gives the viewer a positive take on life. Michael McGowan must be congratulated in giving us a movie that will be hard to forget because it feels real from beginning to end.
  • SAINT RALPH is a little jewel of a film. Stories about kids who gain faith through acts of courage are usually tainted with saccharine scripts, but with the wise use of presenting a well-rounded, multidimensional character as the hero of this story, writer/director Michael McGowan succeeds in a touching tale that is so based on real behavioral patterns of young teens that it becomes simply an inspiring and entertaining movie.

    Ralph (Adam Butcher) is 14, his father died a war hero, and his mother is hospitalized for a terminal illness. Ralph is in Catholic School run by the stern disciplinarian Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent) who, understanding that Ralph has a free spirit and a propensity for getting into trouble, spies on him. Ralph is repeatedly 'punished' for his transgressions, but when he inadvertently has a hilarious swimming pool/voyeuristic experience, he is threatened with expulsion unless he joins the school's Cross Country team run by the kindly Father Hibbert (Campbell Scott).

    Ralph's 'naughty nature' is balanced by his complete devotion to his hospitalized mother (Shauna MacDonald) whom he visits daily: she is all he has. His mother's nurse (Jennifer Tilly) is compassionate and shares with Ralph that as his mother slips into coma that the only thing that will save her is a miracle. Simultaneously Ralph's coach (Father Hibbert) jests that the only way any of the team would win the Boston Marathon would be a miracle. The dots connect; Ralph trains, and through faith and commitment finds himself crossing the finish line of the Marathon! The manner in which McGowan ends the story is part of what makes this film unique. Just as he allows Ralph to be a testy kid who continues to have hilarious episodes right up to the end of the story, he doesn't let the film end in bathos. He makes every action and deed that occur in Ralph's journey combine to drive toward the final meaning. So here is a gentle comedy with a heart, one that is touching while it is a little racy, full of faith while it tests rationality. The cast is superb and seem committed under McGowan's wise direction to find just the right level of realism, making us root strongly for a kid with impossible challenges. Recommended. Grady Harp
  • Vincentiu24 September 2009
    Subtle, delicate and strong movie. About the ordinary pieces of life, about the forms of believes and the colors of miracles. An experience and good exercise for self-definition. A boy and a gray world . The solution is basic. The steps are parts of a competition for be not only the winner but the master of hope. And so, God is more a myth or a lesson, or a far fly. Adam Butcher is perfect option as Ralph and Campbell Scott, with his autumn air - final part of this circle. Vision about religion and surviving, about duty and courage, about metamorphosis of a small universe as fruit of touch of a teenager, " Saint Ralph" is , in fact, recipes for to be yourself. A nice story and a small map.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is an enjoyable little story sort of bringing together a tale about sports, adolescence, life, and Christianity. Anyone Catholic or with some Catholic upbringing will identify with Ralph's plight better. The whole cast does a good job. There are both some funny and touching moments throughout the light-hearted trek for a boy trying to deal with his mother being in a coma. Unfortunately there are also some things that the movie could've done without. The soundtrack got a little too sentimental and overused at times. Miracles and religion sometimes felt over-discussed. At 98 min it actually feels a lot longer. The lead actor helps hold the movie with an odd quirkiness. It was sort of like a mix between a Wonder Years episode and Lucas with Corey Haim but with a religious background. OK for a rental....
  • bandw29 April 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    It would be hard to dislike this sentimental story of young Ralph Walker (Adam Butcher), a fourteen year old attending a Roman Catholic boys' school in Ontario in 1954. Ralph's mother is suffering from an unspecified illness in a local hospital and is in what appears to be a permanent coma. In fact she is so bad off that only a miracle could bring her back. Ralph takes this literally and believes that by effecting a personal miracle he can bring his mother out of her coma. One of the Fathers at the school remarks that it would be a miracle if Ralph were to win the Boston Marathon, and that is the miracle Ralph seizes on.

    This movie is one more installment in the canon of sports movies where one achieves a goal through persistence in overcoming many obstacles, and there are many obstacles to Ralph's achieving his dream, not the least of which is that he is somewhat of a wimp. For certain reasons Father Fitzpatrick, the school's headmaster, has forbidden Ralph to participate in even training for the Marathon, or running in any public race. But *fortunately* the cross country coach, who just happens to have been Canada's premier marathon runner in a previous life, identifies with Ralph's goal and, in defiance of the headmaster, agrees to coach him. But other obstacles abound: Ralph's father is dead and Ralph is living at home alone and being threatened with eviction, the headmaster is trying to put him in a foster home, he burns his house down by accident and barely escapes, he is picked on and made fun of at school and in the community for being caught masturbating in the local swimming pool, and so on.

    But, when executed well, the formula works. This movie goes down smoothly due primarily to Butcher's winning performance and Campbell Scott's portrayal of the sympathetic Father Hibbert. Their relationship rings true and forms a core of the movie along with Ralph's budding relationship with Claire, a would-be nun who finds a way to rationalize her attraction to Ralph. Jennifer Tily's appearance as Ralph's mother's nurse adds some color. Gordon Pinsent's role as headmaster seems excessive in its sternness, but I am led to understand that his personality is not at all out of the realm of the believable.

    There are some beautifully filmed scenes of Ralph running against various backgrounds accompanied by inspiring music. I imagine this movie was a shot in the arm for the sport of distance running.

    A comment by Father Hibbert poses a question for us as to whether, or how often, we have made a sacrifice to take a risk to satisfy a passion, with consequences unknown?

    Some things just don't work. Ralph is occasionally visited by direct communications with God, personified here as Ralph's father in a Santa Claus suit. I doubt that the intent was to identify a belief in Santa with a belief in God, but that is what I came away with. Ralph's belief in a miracle seemed incongruous with his having been initially presented as a precocious, independent-thinking, resourceful, and savvy kid. The scene where Ralph literally flies while running, probably being a metaphor for the "runner's high," struck me as adding an unnecessary fantastical element. Ralph did not look to have a world class runner's form except in long shots where they must have used a double.

    About half way through this I began to think about how it was going to end. For Ralph to win the Boston Marathon and have his mother revive would be a stretch, even for such a sentimental movie. But having Ralph lose and his mother not revive would definitely be too much of a downer. So, the ending is the only logical one.
  • One of the best movies I've seen all year. I tried to catch it in the theatre but it was vapourized too quickly and having seen it I'm completely baffled- surely Canada can afford to promote movies a little better than this. Many such missed opportunities come to mind ("Marion Bridge", "The Hanging Garden" et al). This is one of the best of its genre, the extremely gritty dedicated athlete/musician/singer/painter who takes on the world against all odds. But this is done with a twist. It all takes place in the 1950s in very Catholic parochial school Ontario.

    Ralph (Adam Butcher) is a brazen but cute 14-year-old student fighting the system but inwardly grieving his Dad, who died in the recent war (WW2)and his extremely ill mother who lies in a coma in the hospital. This is never sentimentalized, his exchanges with his mother before she slips into her coma are beautifully written and believable.

    How he cobbles together his faith and goes out to seek a miracle is the crux of the story but there are many lovely sidebars, his almost-girlfriend who wants to be a nun, his best friend who forges notes for him, a fun loving nurse, played by the never disappointing Jennifer Tilly, squeaky voice in place and some disbelieving factory workers who mock his attempts at athleticism.

    Ralph is a fully developed character, his sinful side clashing consistently with his puritanical, self-punishing side, his innate flirtatiousness offset by his being picked upon by the older boys in his school. Adam nails the role to such a degree that one forgets he is acting.

    A younger priest (Campbell Scott plays this beautifully) with a secret past agrees to help the young boy and Gordon Pinsent plays the part of the older rigid priest with conviction even though he has some thin dialogue to sink his teeth into – the movie's only weakness.

    The sexuality content is handled well and honestly with none of that gruesome teenage guffawing that litters other movies of this ilk. Because of this content it would not be suitable for children which is a shame, but it is not gratuitous and is an intrinsic part of the Catholic sin quotient of the era. 8 out of 10. A marvelous, thoughtful film.
  • Saint Ralph is an inspiring film, it's the challenge of a 14 years old boy to go forwards in his life: his father has died in the war ,his mother is ain hospital and the his schoolmate are teaing him. Also this film shows (as many reviewers mencioned) Canada in the fifties and the education in the Catholic colleges !! So with the help of Father George Hibbert Ralph will begin his training for the famous Boston marathon. A story made with great sensibility and a touch of humour. The performances of Adam Butcher, Gordon Pinsent and Campbell Scott are very good.
  • SAINT RALPH is a pleasant surprise most watchers will find hidden away (or absent) at most video rental stores simply because it didn't get a lot of notice in the States. Filmed entirely in Canada by a Canadian crew and cast, this film will make it to the top of many favorites lists once viewers get a chance to see it.

    If you're a fan of HOOSIERS, ROCKY, or some other underdog story, you'll slowly fall for Saint Ralph in similar style.

    The story is that of a troubled 14-year-old at a parochial Catholic school in 1950s Ontario. Ralph Walker is his name (relative unknown Adam Butcher) and he's acting out at school. He smokes. He uses God's name in vain. He has "impure thoughts." And he has a mother who is very sick; a type of brain cancer is easily surmised. Ralph's father died in WWII and he now lives alone in a dilapidated home. Using school chum Chester (Michael Kanev) to help fake notes from Ralph's non-existent grandmother and grandfather, Ralph is able to fool the Catholic school's principal, Father Fitzpatrick (Gordon Pinsent, THE GOOD SHEPHERD), into believing he resides with his aging grandparents.

    Ralph's mother Emma (Shauna MacDonald) eventually slips into a coma and Ralph is now truly alone in the world. Grasping at anything that is more anchored than himself, Ralph begins falling apart but holds himself together thanks to a kindly nurse at the hospital named Alice (Jennifer Tilly, TIDELAND) and a good-hearted priest named Father George Hibbert (Campbell Scott, MUSIC AND LYRICS). Father Hibbert one day initiates an interesting discussion in class about miracles and saints. How ordinary people of the past begat divine miracles. And when Ralph was at the hospital recently, Nurse Alice told him it would take a miracle for his mother to wake up from her coma. The idea to do something saintly so that his mother will awaken comes to him and he settles on winning the Boston Marathon. With the help of Father Hibbert's training, Nurse Alice's weight-lifting, and his classmates wavering support, Ralph eventually runs the Boston Marathon and ... we'll have to stop there.

    Uplifting isn't a word I would associate with myself, simply because I'm not a religious person. But one not need be to enjoy the messages entrenched in Saint Ralph. The uplifting music (Hallelujah), and the study of human endurance and friendship are a part of each of us regardless of our "godly" make-up. It is hope that'll keep viewers watching, not any sense of the miraculous, simply because many can't or won't believe in miracles (myself among them).

    It is also nice that the makers of this excellent movie didn't drop to the lowest religious denominator and thankfully made Ralph be a horribly flawed young man (including drinking, enjoying things that rub against his crotch, cursing, smoking, and nearly giving up on everything and everyone).

    The final sequence of scenes will remain with many as we watch Ralph return to school from Boston and meet up with many of his detractors and supporters. Yeah, it's uplifting but hallelujah! it's not corny.
  • artzau30 December 2005
    Every once in a while, a "feel good" movie pops up that surprises me. Always on the look-out for movies that my wife will watch, I picked this off the shelf and was simply delighted watching it. The story was better than the run of the mill tear-jerker and was made credible by the performance of young Mr. Butcher in the title role, the sweet and beautiful teenage Ms. Hope and the convincing performances of Campbell Scott and Gordon Pinsent as the priests with opposing views. To a pair of cradle Catholics like my wife and I who grew up in the 50s, the bittersweet romance of coming of age was very compelling. In short, this is a good film. Enough nostalgia to spark old memories for oldies like us and with enough sentiment not to be overly sentimental and maudlin. Check it out. You'll be glad you did.
  • First let me quote another commenter's words: "Take Your Family and Go See This Movie!, 17 April 2005 10/10 Author: gbbetts from Canada" Indeed, you would be remiss to not see this excellent movie.

    First of all the cast could not have been better selected. Each playing their own part marvelously. But special kudos to Adam Butcher who played the lead role of Ralph Walker. His talent carried the lead, what seemed to me to be, quite easily.

    Campbell Scott as Father George Hibbert; the priest who befriends Ralph, was endearing; Gordon Pinsent as Father Fitzpatrick (aka "Fitz" by the boys) brought back all the fears I had of such authoritarian teachers; Jennifer Tilly as Nurse Alice ... all you need to say is "Jennifer Tilly" and every man's heart in the theater melts; Shauna MacDonald as Emma Walker (Ralph's bed ridden mother) has a small part but I felt completely convinced that she was his mother and she loved him. The rest of the cast was equally well balanced in their roles. 10/10

    PS: it takes place in a Catholic school, and I am no Catholic. IOW, you must see this movie no matter who you are - it's about being fallible and being human.



    my faith:
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A wonderful mix of laughter, inspiration, tears and thought-provoking questions. A teen-age Catholic boy struggles on the precipice of adulthood and being an orphan at the same time while being raised by priests in a Catholic Canadian school. His wild ways (no different than any teen) seem magnified by a strict senior priest and the boy's own misperception that he must personally perform a miracle to earn the healing of his comatose mother.

    That all sounds quite morose but the plot is held together by a jeweled rosary of bright, witty humor, stirring pathos and deft acting by all, especially the young lead. Also one of the best tie-ins of musical themes I've ever heard for a movie. Listen closely to "Hallelujah" which is beautiful and painful in its near blasphemy of real humanity, that same mix of humanity and Spirit that is the true Gospel. GOD loves us anyway, at our worst, which is (when we "get" that) what compels us to want to give Him our best.

    A wonderful opportunity for parents to have some meaningful conversations with their teen sons and daughters, but be prepared to blush as this movie, though fantasy, "keeps it real" in a lot of ways.

    See it. Watch it with your family. And be prepared to be entertained, embarrassed, challenged, and blessed. Especially if you grew up Catholic. Or Be prepared to do penance. :)
  • Not that well known, but what a treasure. The best family film I've ever seen that I would never let a kid under 13 watch. Whatever that means. I enjoy coming of age films. They never seem to do well at the box office but are almost all worth a watch. King of the Hill, Leolo, This Boys Life were some of my favorites in the past, but now within the span of one week I've seen two more films to add to that list and they make a great weekend double feature. I highly recommend renting "Evil" (Ondskan) at the same time as Saint Ralph. I actually enjoyed Evil a bit more than Saint Ralph but Saint Ralph is the more moving of the two.

    Adam Butcher does a fine job. I've always admired Campbell Scott and I admire him more after seeing Saint Ralph. I realized that he is perhaps the king of the understated actors. Unlike his flamboyant father he creates these understated characters that have a wise interior. The kind of character that commands your respect when you meet them but you're not quite sure why.

    The soundtrack is also wonderful and I wish I could find a way to buy Gord Downie's version of Hallelujah which is one of the best uses of music in film ever. I was familiar with the Jeff Buckley version of the Leonard Cohen song. In fact it was the only Jeff Buckley song that I really liked, but Downie blows him away and it works so well within the context of the Boston Marathon. Enjoy this film and rent Ondskan at the same time. You'll be happy that you took my recommendation.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    SAINT RALPH can certainly fall into a number of classifications and would positively shine in all of them. The film is undeniably a feel-good film, and most certainly a coming-of-age one as well. There is even the great and unique sports angle that runs throughout. However, it is the story between Ralph and Campbell Scott's character, Father Hibbert, that becomes the most responsive as the themes of mentor/student, coach/player, and father/son are all explored.

    The film's titular character is magnificently played by Adam Butcher and brings to the role all the cliché genuine-ness that the story demands: he doesn't have many friends, he's totally misunderstood, and is destined for greatness. The Catholic slant on the film brings a fun element as well as a –gasp- positive angle on the Church.

    The film's deus ex machina comes in the form of God appearing to Ralph dressed as Santa. What is totally wonderful about this concept is that it makes sense! And it also proves that many great things can be accomplished by faith alone.
  • 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.
  • This 2004 feature film from Canada is a gem and deserves a lot of credit for showing some of the athletic determination that isn't about basketball and football. The hero is a kid with minimal family support and the priests in his parochial school are a real mixed-bag. He does find a supportive adult in the nurse who cares for his mother who has been totally incapacitated and is in the 1950s era hospital. The elements that don't quite fit include the 14-year-old's quite contemporary haircuts and the ease he goes from not running to running the 26+ miles necessary for a full marathon. The screenplay does bring up some of the intolerance that was out-and-out bullying by clergy and administrators in Catholic institutions and yet also leave out some of the ways the kid has eluded getting caught without elder supervision and household tending for many, many months. Despite plot weaknesses, SAINT_RALPH deserves a 9 * rating and it has some real belly-laughs throughout. Rent it and talk about its message of "miracles" with your loved ones!
  • ninoguapo21 January 2007
    I really liked "Saint Ralph ". It is great movie full with inspiration. Ralph is a fourteen years old teenager who chooses to chase his own miracle – winning the Boston's marathon. He believes that since people say that such achievement will be a miracle – his mother will wake up from the coma. It is a drama movie and as such there are quite a few scenes which can evoke emotions in its viewers.

    The movie starts with a fun scene in which Ralph is having something to confess – what – well he is a teen and have teen " sins " . I like the attitude of Ralph – the way he handles girls for example, or accusations …etc. He is a cute kid as well – and probably one of the reasons for me liking this movie is that I somehow relate to him.After all I have been in the Cross Country Team while studding in the States and when I was his age I took part in many running competitions. You should have seen me watching this movie, as another reviewer (samurai2347) wrote "I was cheering Ralph on as much as the other characters in the film were." The soundtrack was really good – and the music contributed to the overall good impression that the movie leaves. Looking at the storyline – I find similarities with Billy Elliot, trough of course this movie has its own uniqueness.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Others have already reviewed this film in depth. In brief: I agree with the general opinion that this is a nice little picture that's old-fashioned in several ways, most of them positive, a few a little embarrassing. But it's well worth the watch, and with its large-audience appeal and loving attention to Canadian detail, a welcome addition to the Canadian oeuvre.

    I just want to draw particular attention to one truly break-out performance: that of Campbell Scott as the young priest. This is probably the most realistic portrayal of an actual young teaching priest I've ever seen in the movies. Generally directors either go with sticky-sweet or spuriously bitter and cruel (c.f., the school director in this film). But in real life, most of the young priests I've known are like Scott's: sardonic, sincere, bold, a little bored, comfortable with their students, game, and apparently (or overtly) wondering if they've chosen the wrong life path.

    It's worth watching this movie just to see Scott and his director nail this character. Also: props to the production crew for getting the priestly vestments right. Clergy don't dress like that any more, but they totally did then, and it was a major part of their presence.
  • Another small picture with all the little details of timing, lighting, sound, continuity done beautifully. Only the timing of some training was questionable. I compared the entire film to one done in 1996 or so, 'Wide Awake' by M.Night Shaymalon (sp?) which also captured the spirit and ambiance of Catholic School and a quest. Both were wonderful and produced that rare tear. As long as I'm plugging 'Wide Awake' it had fabulous actors (Loggia, Cross, O'Donnell, Leary, Dan Lauria) a tight script, controlled humor beautifully brought out the relationships of a growing-up 5th grader on a quest. There were little vignettes of his best friend having a seizure, a bully who had to leave the school because the parents couldn't afford the tuition, a field trip going bad, classroom and church scenes which bring back sometimes painful memories. 'Saint Ralph' also reminded me of the painful pitfalls of puberty, one half century ago they are still embarrassingly clear in my memory.
  • A charming, feel good story about a young teen who's love for his mom drives him to strive for something that's seemingly unachievable -- winning the Boston Marathon as a 14-year old neophyte marathoner.

    Great acting by the entire cast, especially Adam Butcher as young Ralph Walker, who faces becoming an orphan.

    This film is not for everyone, and it does have some shortcomings, but, if you like feel good movies, then you'll like this one. In the end, it's a hopeful, redemptive tale that will resonate with anyone 18 or older -- and maybe even with those who are a few years younger.

    The director's commentary is worthwhile. The "making of" feature ended too abruptly for this viewer. Good soundtrack too.

    An excellent DVD to buy. Definitely worth watching more than once.
  • I could simply start this review by saying "Do you like Rudy?" If you like Rudy's road to play one faithful football Match for Notre Dame , I have no doubt you will be equally touched by young Ralph's Journey. The film tells the story of teenager Ralph who is a bit of a waster.He his your typical 14 year old , struggling with puberty , awkward and having a hard time to fit in the Catholic environment of his school. Ralph has another issue , his mother is in hospital suffering from Cancer.Ralph his hiding the fact that he his living all on his own by having a friend forge his grandparents signatures for all school related letters. Things takes a turn to the worse when Ralph's mum falls into a coma and he his informed it will take a miracle to wake her up. Ralph who was forced into taking on running as a sport by his teachers (as a way of keeping his raging hormones in check) although he has no athletic ability believes this miracle can come in the shape of winning the Boston Marathon. There is also a couple of side stories I just don't want to spoil for you. This is a very heart warming film about a typical kid who find he his gifted through the love for his mother. Adam Butcher really shines as the titular hero , he feels like a real 14 year old and gives a very honest performance.He his a very likable lead and you will root for him from the get go. The best thing about this film is that it avoids being over- sentimental, it keeps it's feet firmly on the ground. The supporting actors are all wonderful and Jennifer Tilly gives a very different type of performance then what we are used to. The soundtrack for this film is FANTASTIC , really , I probably went and searched for every wonderful song included in this film. As the late Roger Ebert called it , this film is a real gem and the perfect film if you need something to boost your moral! I give it a 9 out of 10.
  • bmcdannell11 March 2006
    OK - somewhere out there is someone with a list of "Movies you never heard of but really should see." Saint Ralph is one of the movies on that list. Please, please send us the list on a regular basis. I believe we heard about this movie on Netflix as one of Roger Ebert's picks for best movie of 2005. While we tend to view any critic's recommendations with a jaundiced eye, Ebert is reasonably reliable, so I thought I'd give it a try. When it arrived, my wife read the blurb on the DVD and said, "Why on earth did you order this?" I gotta admit, whoever wrote the blurb really made it sound sappy and had I picked it up at the local rental store I probably would have put it right back down again. What a mistake that would have been. (Note to producers and distributors - next time you release a film, get someone who understands the movie to write the blurb).

    Saint Ralph is truly outstanding. From the story to the acting to the photography and on, it is a rare movie, bringing many laughs and as many tears. From the trappings of 1950s parochial school guilt, repression and just plain goofiness blossoms a truly and deeply spiritual quest. I am accustomed to being embarrassed to be a person of faith by the way it is perceived and represented by most of the media available today. Saint Ralph reminds me that there are those out there who still embrace faith as I do, and I am deeply grateful to the writer, director and everyone involved in this film.

    The thing that keeps this movie from being a corny, "feel good movie of the week" is the natural juxtaposition of authentic, uncontrived humor and uninflated drama - and the intelligence with which the story is constructed and executed.

    I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. If you've ever wondered what faith is really all about, see this movie. If you've ever wanted to know how one very ordinary individual - just like yourself - can inspire and change an entire community for the better, see this movie. There is truth here.
  • In a world of compromises and contradictions it is always joyously refreshing to watch a story unfold that disarms the contradictions and denies the compromises. So do not watch this film if you are surrounded by the clouds of comforting complacency. It is a beautiful story that challenges the ugliness of cynicism and predictable ritualised religion and the intransigence of 'adult thought patterns'.. It is well filmed, well directed and outrageously well acted.There are some incredible performances, given the genre and the whole film has that 'so believable' quality about it. It's just the kind of scenario you could imagine happening in your own street (one must allow for the period in which it is set). I bought it as a 'cheap offer DVD' a few years ago. I needed to watch it again tonight for the sheer refreshment of watching something that made my heart and mind both joyful and optimistic. It is one of my most used films for that purpose.
  • Clearly the best movie out this month (July/August 2005 - I've seen most of them). The easiest way to tell you about it is to compare it to similar movies, and the first that came to mind were Lucas (Corey Haim) and Rudy (Sean Astin). What Saint Ralph shares in common with these films is the extreme athletic determination, against all odds, of a spirited boy from a pathetic background. And it's the best of it's kind since Rudy (1993), at least, and in my opinion since Lucas (1986).

    Ralph (Adam Butcher) is a naughty but naive 14-year-old boy, ready to take almost everything literally, now faced with the paradox of faith. His widowed mother is apparently dying in the hospital, and falls into a coma early in the story. A doctor says it will take a miracle to wake her.

    Ralph is an interesting character, his even blend of pure and impure motives providing both the humor that make the film entertaining, and the realism that make it believable. His self-abuse in every sense defines the term, from the usual meaning to literally sanding his knees to pray in a pan of alcohol, the latter recommended by his girlfriend, who aspires to be a nun.

    When his Catholic school's cross country coach says it would be a miracle if anyone on his team won the Boston Marathon, Ralph's literal mind seizes a fallacious opportunity. If he wins the Boston Marathon, it would be a miracle, and that's what his mother needs to survive. Most of the movie is about his training to run that race, both physical and spiritual, with the help of a priest (Campbell Scott), a nurse (Jennifer Tilly), and his girlfriend (Tamara Hope).

    The blend of comedy and pathos is effective, the film kept entertaining by the comedy in the foreground, while the fact that Ralph's mother is dying keeps us interested in the outcome and rooting for the boy. Even if you don't like running or sports in general, the life at stake, or at least the boy's faith at stake, makes this race important.

    There may be a bit too much sexual comedy for most parents to let small children see. For instance, after Ralph's caught in a venal sin in the swimming pool, that involved spying on the girl's locker room, he tells his mother "It was really an accident. The manufacture of the pool was faulty." The incident becomes a running joke, demonstrating Ralph's character trait of not caring what other people think. He later says they didn't really need to drain the pool (I'm not going to explain that, you've got to see it, but it was funny). But it's not as crude as other current comedies like The Wedding Crashers and The Bad News Bears.

    I recommend Saint Ralph specifically to anyone who liked Lucas or Rudy, and generally to anyone old enough to take the humor maturely.
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