For Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan), there is not much to be merry about during the 1953 Christmas season. Lack of employment for the painter/decorator has left little under the tree for the children, and created big problems with his spouse. But just when the Irishman thinks life can't get worse, his wife runs off with another man.
In the wake of her rash decision, Desmond shoulders the responsibility of his three youngsters with some help from his aging Father (Frank Kelly). However, the SPCC (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) soon intervenes, and places the children into the care of the Catholic Church. While the boys settle into the strict environment fairly well, his oldest daughter Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur) sparks the temper of a short-fused nun (Andrea Irvine).
Desperate to have his family back under one roof, the single father secures work in order to prove he is a fit provider. Then, when he discovers the authorities will still not allow them to be reunited, he considers kidnapping or even taking them by force.
Failing in every attempt, Desmond turns to drink. In a pub he meets a sympathetic attendant named Bernadette Beattie (Julianna Margulies), who introduces the despairing dad to her lawyer brother. With his aid, and the compassionate support of some other colleagues, the Doyle custody case prepares to do battle with the court's long-established family laws and the Irish Constitution.
Evelyn contains salty language as well as many portrayals of smoking and alcohol consumption (often used as a way to "forget"), gambling utilized as a revenue source, inferred adulterous relationships, heartless officials, and a few negative insinuations against the Catholic Church.
Yet Desmond's devotion to his family motivates this man to tackle the two hardest problems in his life: Getting his kids back, and giving up his addiction. Although a somewhat sentimental adaptation of a true story, the film also offers a beautiful depiction of a grandfather's gentle love. His legacy helps little Evelyn courageously face the scariest trial of her life, where she exemplifies faith and forgiveness.