Judge Bill Gibron is a bitter old man, where films like this are concerned.
An abandoned child brings the colors of love into their lives.
They say it takes a critic with the constitution of Ebenezer Scrooge to dislike A Shine of Rainbows. After all, this was the movie voted "the truly moving picture" award at the Heartland Film Festival. It should make one warm and fuzzy, reestablish their faith in life and all the good things within it, and marvel at a slice of cinema that's not cynical, forced, or poured directly out of a stifling studio system. Well, here's one reviewer who is ready to yell the biggest "BAH! HUMBUG!" you've ever heard. There is a fine line between maudlin and manipulative, genuine and genuinely sappy, and A Shine of Rainbow crosses it time and time again. All this stereotypical melodrama needs is a wizard standing back behind a sepia-toned curtain, tugging at all the overheated heartstrings he can, making sure that there's not a dry eye, or full box of Kleenex, in three counties.
The story centers on Tomas (John Bell, Life of Riley), a lonely orphan bullied by the other boys. One day, a beautiful woman named Maire O'Donnell (Connie Nielsen, One Hour Photo) adopts him, taking him to meet her husband Alec/his new father (Aidan Quinn, Jonah Hex) on a remote island off the coast of Ireland. There he learns the sad truth: she is dying and he is not happy with having such a wimpy child as his son. For a time, however, Tomas roams around his new home, befriending the local children and learning about life on the far away farm. As trauma takes its toll, the remaining men must find a way to bond. Tomas discovers a stranded seal on the sea coast, and takes to caring for it. It will take another act of near death to bring the distraught dad and the beleaguered boy together once and for all.
Wow, is A Shine of Rainbows earnest. To a fault. It's also weepy, weak-willed, dull, effusive, and a bunch of other contradictory adjectives that may or may not lead you to wanting to see the final result. In essence, this is a family-oriented chick flick in which the noble, dying matriarch makes a huge personal sacrifice (adopting a kid when she can't have one of her own) to guarantee both the child and her harried husband some future happiness and unrealistic respite. Then she gets busy croaking from one of those mysterious movie diseases that charmed cinematic lives seem doomed to experience. Along the way, we get gorgeous shots of the Corrie Island location, gratuitous sea mammal material, juvenilia, and some standard coming of age twaddle. This doesn't make A Shine of Rainbows more bearable, just capable of meeting all the motion picture genre needs. And of course, tears are not optional, they are mandatory.
As for the performances, young John Bell is fairly effective, especially when getting his butt kicked by the formulaic ruffians at the local orphanage. Looking kind of like a young Rupert Grint, he radiates cherubic bland and grace. As for Quinn, he's capable of good work. Here, he's tolerable. That just leaves O'Donnell to do most of the heavy lifting, and with her flawless Irish accent, she more than meets the challenge. It's just too bad that the source material (a novel by Lillian Beckwith) bumps her off before she can really save things. She's the only reason to endure the over-cute conceits of A Shine of Rainbows. Otherwise, the entire experience is like watching your favorite pet being put down. The mixture of sadness and safe, happy memories will drive many to distraction, if not straight out depression.
Fox's release of this film is actually quite good. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen image is nice and cinematic, the gorgeous locale adding more to the movie than the dialogue or storyline ever could. Similarly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix measures out the ambient noise with the dialogue in easy-to-understand snippets. While Keith Powers' score is syrupy enough, the sonic situation here treats it with care. Last and perhaps least, there is a making-of featurette that's pure EPK fluff. It gives all involved, including co-writer/director Vic Sarin a chance to praise each other's participation.
While it may be condemning one to endless hours in Purgatory watching reruns of Gooby and Gordy, A Shine of Rainbows is a solid smudgepot of sap. Sacrilegious or not, the movie just doesn't work—at least not for this embittered old critic.
Guilty—only worth a settled groan.
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