The Boys of St Vincent is in many ways a horror film. The two part made-for-TV film is less about the boys and more about a particular evil character named Brother Lavin who runs an orphanage in New Foundland and who has a reputation of being abusive toward the boys.
When The Boys of St Vincent directed by John N. Smith first cropped up on television and on the film festival circuit in 1991 it caused a stir because it was one of the first films about abuse by some of the factions who run the Catholic church. But it also showed the way that the church - along with the government and the police - covered up the investigations and the findings.
Henry Czerny gives a terrifying performance as Brother Lavin a mean, abusive Brother who is the head supervisor of the orphanage. He not only carries out strict policy in the orphanage but he sexually abuses one young boy named Kevin. But Brother Lavin also has the boys scared of talking about anything to the police about the abuse.
There is nothing subtle about the first half of part one. Brother Lavin is sick and evil. And those around him are just as guilty of crimes. The film takes on more nuance when a police investigator looks into the matter. What he finds are boys unwilling to talk. And worse an entirely corrupt system that refuses to implicate the church.
Part two takes place 15 years later when Kevin and some of the boys decide to come forth with their stories. And for the most part the second part has much more psychological character development and drama especially with regards to Brother Lavin who has become a family man with two boys of his own.
The charges and the subsequent trial will be a true test of everything that is wrong with Lavin's life as well as a test for his wife who has no knowledge of his past life. Kevin is now grown up and dealing with his life and trying to bring all the horrors of his life to the trail and the hearings so that he can get beyond it.
The Brothers of St Vincent is a powerful film that - while fictional - speaks to many issues that became front page news over the past few years. There is nothing subtle about the film. From start to finish it is like watching a train wreck. Fortunately director John N. Smith tries to keep from manipulating the subject matter, exploring the various issues of the cover-up and the trial and it is a good thing that he has such a strong set of actors to make it chillingly effective.