The Boys Of St. Vincent

"Movie Magazine International" Review

(Air Date: Week Of 2/8/95)

By Monica Sullivan

"The Boys Of St. Vincent" is a hard-hitting Canadian drama set in a Newfoundland orphanage for boys run by the Catholic brothers. But Brother Lavin, the orphanage's well-respected director, has a secret life with the children under his care. He uses them as sexual outlets and, if they reject his advances or his authority, he beats them until they require medical attention.

The three-hour plot revolves around Kevin, one of Brother Lavin's special boys, who runs away rather than submit to him. What happens next is the subject of a fifteen-year cover-up. Were children at the orphanage actually abused by the brothers? Should the police have intervened more forcefully? Why did the Catholic authorities simply transfer the guilty Brothers rather than make them face criminal charges?

The long-term effects of sexual abuse are finally being faced by international courts after decades of ignoring children's complaints against so-called pillars of the community, a theme which is strongly reinforced in "The Boys Of St. Vincent". The kids have no rights. They are harassed and intimidated by their abusers. Well-meaning social workers, detectives, friends and family members are ineffectual. The drama also deals with the cyclical nature of child abuse, that the abused grow up to abuse others as well. One of the more likable of Kevin's fellow victims grows up to be a drug addict and a street hustler and during is court appearance, it is revealed that as a teenager, he abused little boys half his age. We see his horrifying and tragic descent from a freckle-faced charmer to a broken man of 25 who would rather die than face himself.

The script suggests that Brother Lavin, too, was abused as a child, but since we only see him as a menacing adult, filled with rage and self-pity, he has no claim whatever on our sympathy. Henry Czerny made the most of this 1992 role as Brother Lavin, subsequently attracting the attention of more than one Hollywood producer. The timing of the limited theatrical release of "The Boys Of St. Vincent" is ironic since the Speaker Of The House seems to feel that more orphanages are just what we need right now. Television viewers can weigh the pros and cons for themselves when "The Boys Of St. Vincent" airs nationally on the Arts and Entertainment Network.

Copyright 1995 Monica Sullivan

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