Normally, whenever I hear the terms "feel-good" or "coming-of-age" in relation to a movie, I run for the hills.
Speaking of which:
This feel-good coming-of-age movie is about a wannabe (another red flag) long distance runner (oy). And yes, there are the requisite slo-mo shots and the dramatic sound track that every running movie has. While we're on the subject of movie clichés, how about adding in a rigid old priest (is there any other kind?), an enlightened young priest (is there any other kind?), a dying mom (way more poignant than a dying dad) and a sassy nurse (is there any other kind?).
All of this conspires "BEGS" to tug at your heartstrings, suck you right in and leave you tottering on the edge of your seat, mopping away the tears with various parts of your shirt.
Or, maybe that was just me? I doubt it.
This is a terrific movie with a terrific cast. Ralph is played by Adam Butcher, a young boy who gets more appealing as the movie goes on. By the end, you just want to reach into the screen & take him home with you.
The same could be said of Campbell Scott (as the young priest), but for entirely different reasons. Besides being nice to look at, he gives a beautifully controlled performance that gives a nice edge of mystery, soul and tension to what could have been disastrous in less capable hands.
I have to admit that I had to suppress a groan when Jennifer Tilly first showed up as the sassy nurse because I'm dead tired of Jennifer Tilly as a sassy ANYTHING by now. Somehow, she managed to add a whole new fascinating facet to her sassy oeuvre. Tilly's performance as Nurse Alice manages to be heartfelt, yet incredibly non-maudlin: A very tricky balance to achieve.
As for the soundtrack, forget about the typically moody, then energetic (depending on how far along we are into the drama of the race) synth stuff, which, I should add, I have no problem with: I actually am a Vangelis admirer. However, I have even less of a problem with such songs as "Hallelujah" setting the mood. Though omnipresent of late in all its various versions by Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, John Cale (my personal fave), and others, it makes sense here because it's the original version, which was written and recorded by Cohen, a Canadian, which is where the movie is set.
While you're debating about whether or not you should see "Saint Ralph", I would only say that it depends on your disposable income and/or the need to see a movie that is inoffensive and uplifting...you know, those times when you're trying to figure out something you can see with a first date, a parent or a child.
If the answer is, "None of the above", don't hesitate to check it out when it's on a cable channel within a year or less of its release.
Ah-h-h... if ONLY movie theaters were less pricey...