'Saint Ralph' tries to save his mother with a miraculous run in the Boston Marathon
When Emma Walker falls into a deep coma, Alice (Tilly), the nurse attending her, tells the patient's son: "It'll take a miracle to wake her up." Ralph (Butcher) is such a literalist of the imagination that, desperate to save his mother, he sets about concocting a miracle. As penance for masturbating in a public swimming pool, Ralph is assigned to work out with his school's cross-country team. It is there that he resolves to attempt the miracle of winning the Boston Marathon. An amiable fantasy about the godliness of the long-distance runner, Saint Ralph begins in September 1953, and follows its young protagonist as, defying the odds and the head of his Catholic school, he prepares for the famous endurance race the following April.
|Adam Butcher wins the support of school bullies, flirts, and priests alike as Ralph, a 14-year-old boy struggling with his mother's illness and puberty in Saint Ralph.|
At 14, Ralph is a bundle of riotous energies that express themselves repeatedly in what the priests who confess him term "self-abuse." His mother in the hospital and his father dead, Ralph pretends to be staying with his grandparents, when in fact he lives alone and gets his best friend Chester to forge signatures required by authorities. It is only two years after publication of The Catcher in the Rye, and Ralph, who lives in Hamilton, Ontario, is a kind of Canadian Holden Caulfield; a streak of holy simplicity nudges each into trouble with adults.
Though visited by visions of God dressed in a Santa suit, Ralph is no saint, even when he adopts a book of martyrs as model for his behavior. He has continuing problems with faith, purity, and prayer, the requisites for miracles - especially purity. Ralph repeatedly antagonizes Father Fitzpatrick (Pinsent), the autocrat of St. Magnus School, who opposes the boy's preposterous plan to run the marathon and threatens to expel him. But he is befriended by Father Hibbert (Scott), a free-thinking teacher of religion who dares to compare Nietzsche to Jesus. A former track star himself, Hibbert coaches Ralph for Boston, while Ralph's gumption inspires Hibbert to stand up to Fitzpatrick.
| Saint Ralph |
Dir. & writ. Michael McGowan; feat. Adam Butcher, Campbell Scott, Gordon Pinsent, Jennifer Tilly (PG-13)
and so did I. •