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Evelyn

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Evelyn Movie Poster Image
Grieving family hikes to remember deceased loved one.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 100 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Sometimes just showing up for our loved ones is the best support we can give. Talking things through can be comforting. It's natural to believe that someone who committed suicide could have been saved, but it's not necessarily true.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Three siblings feel terrible pain a decade after the death by suicide of their brother. They do their best to comfort one another. A single mother continues to worry that her dead son's schizophrenia was somehow caused by her.  

Violence

A young man killed himself years ago. The method isn't mentioned.

Sex
Language

"F--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A youth is briefly seen in a home movie lighting a joint.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Evelyn is a deeply personal and emotionally intense documentary from award-winning documentary maker Orlando von Einsiedel. He turned his cameras on his own family to help him explore why none of them could ever talk much about his younger brother Evelyn, who committed suicide 13 years before. To prod them into soul-baring and healing, he suggests a month-long trek across Britain, bringing them through glorious landscapes Evelyn had loved as a youth. Along the way they share memories and their continuing anguish over the loss. Language includes "f--k," and in a home movie, Evelyn is briefly seen lighting a joint.

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What's the story?

EVELYN (pronounced "EEv-lin") is an intensely personal film by award-winning documentarian Orlando von Einsiedel, made in his attempt to give himself and his remaining family a setting in which to talk about what they've avoided for 13 years: the suicide of his younger brother Evelyn. His divorced parents individually join Orlando and his younger siblings, Robin and Gwennie, for different legs of the month-long trek across lush, stark, beautiful rural Britain, from Scotland to London. A camera crew records their confessions of guilt, remembrances, incomprehension, and enduring pain. At times, old family conflicts arise. His mother, who raised the kids, walks for one part, then leaves, and the dad, who seems distant, self-absorbed, and insensitive, arrives with his wife to walk for a bit, immediately losing his temper over the behavior of a waiter in a restaurant. Evelyn's best friends join for a while, and one confronts Orlando for continuing to avoid exploring and communicating his own feelings and instead asking others to express theirs. Orlando, who devised the project to address his own inability to speak with anyone about his brother, confides in curious strangers encountered along the way. They ask about the film crew, and each encounter reveals how others, too, have been touched by similar tragedy. One man explains he's recently lost his mother. Another hiker is escaping her father's wake with a little outing. Another man is so moved by Orlando and his siblings that he hugs them all and gives them his card, hoping they'll stay in touch.   

Is it any good?

This documentary is a moving tribute to a lost brother. He was a promising, beloved young man heading for medical school when he was taken by schizophrenia and a depression that ultimately led to his death at age 22. What does it mean to deal with loss? Does talking about tragedy lessen the pain, or even turn it into something bearable? Does acknowledging years of silence on the subject bring comfort to a family or just tear at their collective wound? Evelyn can't answer any of these questions, but it deserves credit for asking.

At the end it offers a website, Evelynmovie.com, for those struggling with issues raised in the film. This film is certainly not for everyone. Its final result or lack thereof doesn't even support Orlando's presumption that spending time with family and friends talking about their shared loss might offer some solace, so it's hard to say who would willingly sit through the pain of it if it didn't affect that person directly. It's certainly emotionally affecting. Those who have lost someone to mental illness may find it meaningful.   

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the tragedy of suicide. Do you know a family that has lost someone that way? What can you do to support them?

  • Suicide represents many concepts: pain too unendurable to bear and a legacy of pain for loved ones who live on after the tragedy. What aspects of such loss do you think Evelyn deals with successfully?

  • Family members and friends do a lot of talking about Evelyn, but they also look at each other wordlessly, touch each other in a comforting way, and hug. Do you think sometimes silent physical acts can be as important in personal relations as talking out a problem?  

Movie details

For kids who love documentaries

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