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Posted: February 16, 2005

Athletics: 'Saint Ralph', The Story Of A Ninth Grader's Quest To Win The Boston Marathon Opens April 1st

This is the story of Ralph Walker, a 14-year-old who in 1954 outran everyone's expectations in his bold quest to win the Boston Marathon


SAINT RALPH is the unlikely story of Ralph Walker, a ninth grader who, convinced that only a miracle can save his ailing mother, outruns everyone's expectations except his own in his deluded quest to win the 1959 Boston Marathon. Ebullient and touching, SAINT RALPH is directed with verve by Michael McGowan and features winning turns by Campbell Scott, Gordon Pinsent, Jennifer Tilly and newcomer Adam Butcher.

Fatherless with a seriously ill mother, Ralph is a lonely boy attending a strict Catholic school. Uncoordinated and humiliated daily by his peers, he is forced by the headmaster to join the cross-country team in an effort to control his raging hormones. Ralph discovers that he possesses an unlikely aptitude for the sport, and a transformation kicks in. Ralph becomes a convert to the church of running and decides he will run (and win!) the upcoming Boston Marathon - an idea as misguided as it is ridiculous. Ralph believes his victory will kick-start the miracle needed to get his mother out of a coma; of course, for this miracle to happen, Ralph needs equal parts faith, prayer and purity, not easy commodities for a fourteen year-old to come by. At first, he sees only the finish line, but through his journey of self-discovery, Ralph comes to understand how life can be bigger and better than he ever imagined. SAINT RALPH is a heartwarming and hilarious journey to the starting line of life.

Writer-director Michael McGowan (former Toronto Olympic Club and St. Michael's College runner) has created a wonderfully sympathetic lead character. Gangly and awkward, Ralph epitomizes the unlikely underdog we cannot help but cheer on. The script carefully balances the forces of dissuasion and encouragement as Ralph’s friends and foes watch his progress. Pinsent is superbly nasty as the headmaster anticipating Ralph’s defeat, while Scott is perfect as the Nietzsche-reading, forward-thinking Father Hibbert, who metes out his encouragement in measured doses. When Ralph wins Hamilton’s Around the Bay race, it starts to look as though the miracle might be within his grasp. Without being overly sentimental, Saint Ralph lovingly reminds us of what it’s like to dream big – and to go for the long shots.

Saint Ralph opens on April 1st in Toronto, Montreal & Vancouver, and April 8th in the rest of Canada.

The movie will be screened in Ottawa on March 2nd and 10th.

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