Resurrection (A Film Treatment)
Gerard J. Hannan
The sun falls on a small group of people standing around a grotto praying the Rosary and led by FR SIDD (45). Five noisy teenagers, four boys and girl, are playing with a football nearby. The priest interrupts the prayers and insists that the teenagers move away. The tomboy girl SARAH HARPER (15) sarcastically apologises and demands that the boys move away and they do. As the prayers continue the adults ignore the teenagers as they move up the country road toward a road level old stone railway bridge. The teenagers are soon at the bridge and still noisily playing.
The railway hand signal drops down. The teenagers fail to notice an old man walking with a large German shepherd dog approaching from nearby. The sound of the nearby train is deafening. Three of the boys jump on the bridge announcing that the air blowing up from beneath is ‘amazing’. SARAH with fingers in her ears laughingly jumps back from the wall. BOB MORIARTY (15) hugs Sarah and she jokingly jeers him for not standing on the bridge. The man with the dog is closer now and the boys remain standing on the bridge as the high-speed train passes underneath.
The old man and dog arrive on the bridge at the same moment as the train passes underneath the bridge. The dog, startled by the sound of the train, barks loudly and scares Sarah who leaps back from the angry barking dog. In her haste she loses footing and tumbles forward against DANNY MORIARTY (15) who then loses his balance and falls forward and down into the path of the high-speed train. The teenagers look on in absolute horror as Danny’s sudden scream abruptly ends. The dog continues barking loudly and the sound of the train fades into the distance.
Twenty five years later an Irish Catholic priest, Fr BOB MORIARTY (40) is alone in a barely furnished living room. By the side of the door there are a couple of small suitcases. On his table is an American travel book; beside it is a plane ticket. The radio is playing and he hears the presenter talking about abuse in the Catholic Church. He stands up and walks to the radio and abruptly switches it off. He starts to make himself some coffee and stares at a crucifix on the wall and whispers; ‘You may forgive them but I don’t’.
Suddenly the telephone rings and he answers it. The caller is SARAH HARPER (40). She tells him she urgently needs to see him and pleads with him to come visit her in Glen Oisin. Bob is hesitant to return to the village of his childhood. She insists it is urgent and he must come. Reluctantly he agrees to a fast visit that evening and explains he must come back to catch a flight. She thanks him and promises him she won’t keep him too long and they hang up. He pours himself coffee and stares out the window in silence.
A battered sign welcomes visitors to the village of Glen Oisin as Bob drives by. Bob parks his car and steps onto the empty street surveying the unchanged landscape of his childhood. He walks past the Grotto toward the Railway Bridge and stops for a moment to watch a train passing below. Suddenly he is a child again and he sees his Brother Danny looking over his shoulder and laughing then suddenly helplessly falling. A man’s voice wakes Bob from the momentary trance. ‘Hello Bob’, it is GARY MORIARTY (45), his older brother. He greets his brother and they hug.
The winter wind is howling around them as they approach a forsaken grave. Bob removes the creeping ivy to reveal the inscription DANIEL MORIARTY. He solemnly stares at the grave as Gary stands behind. They talk about Danny and reveal to each other that they both believe if Sarah had not overreacted to the dog the boy would still be alive. Gary reveals he never could forgive her for that. He tells Bob that Sarah was once his girlfriend but he finished it after a few dates because when he saw her all he could do was think of Danny.
As they walk towards the graveyard gates Bob tells Gary his reasons for returning to the village. Bob asks about his estranged father and Gary tells him that he has become worse since the death of their mother and he is now living in Cork. Gary asks his brother if he intends to take a break from the priesthood and Bob confirms that he just needs some time to reconsider his position and was going to spend a few months in America. Bob sits into his car and promises to meet Gary later at the local bar then drives off.
Bob arrives at Sarah’s home and knocks on the door. After a moment the door opens and Dr HENRY SMITH (60) greets Bob. They stand outside the door to speak and Dr. Smith informs Bob that Sarah has Cancer and is dying and it is only a matter of hours as she is heavily tranquilised on Morphine. He explains that she is distressed because her estranged son, BILLY HARPER (20), who departed for college two years earlier, has never once returned following ‘personal problems’. Sarah is hoping that Bob’s intervention could appease Billy and bring him to his mother’s deathbed.
Now indoors Bob, without hesitation, refuses to accept the futile mission based on past similar experiences that were unfruitful. He explains it would raise false hopes. The Doctor explains ‘you and I know that’ but asks the priest to be kinder to her and allow her to believe there is some hope. Bob agrees but explains that he would, when Sarah asks, agree to try but assures the Doctor that it would be futile as Billy, clearly knowing his mother is ill and not visiting, could not be influenced to act against his own will. Bob walks up the stairs.
Sarah is drowsy when Bob enters. She talks about her angry son Billy and weeps as she explains she has never revealed the father’s identity to Billy’s and this angered him. The pregnancy resulted from a shameful drunken night with a stranger. She tells Bob she loved his brother Danny and they had a teenage romance that still impacted on her life. Bob promises he will try locate Billy but needs a photograph. She produces one from under her pillow. He stares at it in shock. The boy is identical to Danny. Sarah has drifted back into a deep sleep.
Bob arrives at a small empty bar and orders a drink. As he sips it, an intoxicated and dishevelled man BARRY HARPER (42) enters and approaches Bob. The BARMAN (60) shuns Barry but relents at Bob’s behest. Barry tells Bob he met Gary who told him he was in town. Barry states his life is pointless and how he crumbled at the news of his sister Sarah’s terminal cancer. Barry recalls Danny’s death and his remorse at not being there to catch Danny as he fell and now he could not be there for his sister ‘as she falls’ too.
Both men move to a table in the corner to talk. Bob tries to convince Barry that he is not responsible for Danny’s death. Barry refuses to accept this. Barry admits dark depressions and cannot rid himself of the image of Danny falling from the bridge. He tells Bob he believes that he will carry vivid memories, remorse and guilt with him to his grave. No words from Bob can convince Barry who remains tortured as he departs the bar. The BARMAN tells Bob that Barry is forever angry and depressed and finding fault at life and is best ignored.
Gary enters the bar and joins Bob at the table. Bob tells him about Barry but he dismisses it as typical behaviour. They discuss Bob’s reasons for leaving the priesthood. Bob explains it is not at all the lifestyle he believed it would be. He states that he now believes that he misinterpreted a dream for the holy calling to the priesthood. He explains that all he seems to be doing is dealing with death in all of its manifestations. Bob finishes his drink and tells Gary he would be staying overnight at a nearby Seminary then leaves the bar.
Bob enters the church through a side door and walks to the altar. Standing alone at the foot of the altar in silent prayer Bob fails to notice an old priest FR SIDD (75) silently sitting behind him. Fr Sidd asks him why he is so troubled. Bob, at first shocked at the old priest’s presence, sits with him and explains that he was considering giving up the priesthood. The old man seems unsurprised by the revelation and explains that the problem was the lack of spiritual enlightenment but God would respond to a heartfelt appeal to provide this nourishment.
Both men begin to walk down the aisle. Bob then tells Fr Sidd of the task that lay ahead and how best to encourage Billy Harper to return home. The old priest has little advice. Fr Sidd tells him that truth will reveal itself when necessary and not a moment sooner but to try convince the boy to return to his mother using ‘whatever words God puts into your mouth.’ The old priest reaches into his pocket and produces a small statue of the Holy Mother holding a baby. He hands the statue to Bob and says ‘give Billy this’.
The next morning Gary is sitting alone in his office reading through some papers. Bob enters and bids him good morning. Gary comments that Bob does not look well and Bob admits that he spent the night awake and was too tired to drive to Dublin but wanted Gary to travel with him to meet Billy Harper. Bob takes the photograph from his pocket to show Gary. Gary casually looks at the picture and hands it back saying ‘I don’t need that, I know what he looks like’. Bob is surprised that Gary makes no further comment and they depart.
On the road to Dublin Bob tells Gary that that striking resemblance of Billy to Danny suggested Danny may be the father. Gary becomes somewhat suspicious and recalls the fact that Sarah never openly admitted to anyone who was the father of her child. He dismisses the possibility that Danny fathered the child because he died five years prior to Billy’s birth. Gary suggests perhaps Billy could be older than they knew. Bob is confused as to why Gary seemed oblivious to the possibility that he was the father. Bob challenges Gary on this but he denies any such possibility.
At Trinity College Bob and Gary make their way to the Dean of Arts Office. Gary produces his badge and the receptionist cooperates. She calls the Dean and within moments he hastily emerges from his office. He invites the brothers into his office. The men enter and take a seat as the Dean dials a number and asks to have Billy Harper sent to his office immediately. The Dean hangs up and offers coffee to the men while they wait. Bob explains to the Dean that Billy’s mother is dying and has requested to see her son one final time.
There is a gentle knock on the door and the Dean quickly opens it. BILLY HARPER (22) enters the room and he is a good-looking, well groomed, intelligent bohemian looking man that looks beyond his years. On seeing the three men he seems surprised but immediately recognises Gary and shakes hands with him. Gary introduces him to Bob as the Dean excuses himself from the room. Billy takes a seat and sits upright, arms folded, firm expression and asks has she died? Bob replies that she is still alive and explains the situation while Gary stands silently in the background.
Billy tells Bob that he has no desire to see his mother dead or alive. He explains that he left Glen Oisin behind him and is making his own life in Dublin and while he has forgiven his mother for past crimes he has not forgotten them. Bob tells Billy that he knows the source of his anger but if he really wants to find out who his father is then maybe now was the time to do it because this may be the last chance. Billy laugh’s loudly and asks do you really think this is about my father?’
Billy states that there is more to this than identifying an incidental stranger. He explains to Bob that his mother’s crimes are much more than just that. He explains that he gave his mother his full forgiveness for withholding his father’s identity from him but he now has no desire whatsoever to reunite with his mother. Gary interjects and asks Billy would he reveal the reason why this seemingly irreparable rift has come about. Billy rises from his chair in anger and announces he is Gay and had been rejected by his mother who totally refused to accept his sexuality.
Bob and Gary are driving home. Gary tells Bob that during his brief relationship with Sarah they were never intimate. Bob is angered by Gary’s denials and demands he stops lying. Gary becomes irate and verbally attacks Bob for running away clearly unable to cope with his brother’s death, his mother’s death and his father’s alcoholism. Gary blames Bob for leaving him to deal alone with these all these tragic problems. In the heat of the row neither brother notices that the car has drifted to the wrong side of the road and it suddenly impacts with an oncoming car.
When Bob wakes he finds he is upside down and face-to-face with his brother. Bob reaches forward to touch his brother’s face. Gary’s eyes are half open but Bob realises that his brother is dying. Gary apologises for losing his temper and tells Bob he trusts him more than anybody else in the world. In his final confession he insists he is not Billy’s father. Bob hears the sound of an oncoming ambulance and begins to give his brother’s last rites. After a few seconds of prayer Bob’s voice begins to fade and he slips into a state of unconsciousness.
In the dark of night the railway signal drops to warn of a forthcoming train. From beyond the old Stone Bridge the lights of the train appear in the horizon. A man steps up onto the wall on the bridge and hands outstretched in cruciform he awaits the train. The beams of light from the train shine on the face of the man and it is Barry Hanlon. Just as the front of the train approaches the bridge Barry closes his eyes, smiles and whispers Amen. Hands still outstretched he silently drops himself down into the path of the train.
Bob wakes up on a hospital bed and sitting beside him is Fr Sidd. The old priest asks him how he feels. Bob asks the priest what happened and Fr Sidd tells him that he had an accident with Gary who did not survive. Bob rises to get out the bed but the old priest tries to stop him. Bob insists that he is feeling okay and needs to get on his feet. Fr Sidd reluctantly relents and allows Bob to sit on the edge of the bed. Bob begins to weep and the old priest tries to comfort him.
Sarah Harper is alone, erratically breathing, on her bed as Dr. Smith enters the room. He stands beside her and leans forward to listen to her heart with his stethoscope. He notices a tear rolling down her face. She struggles to speak and asks him where is Billy? He tells her that her son is on the way. She smiles and asks should he lie to a dying mother. The Doctor smiles and tells her about his Hippocratic Oath and could not lie even if he really wanted to. He then injects her and tells her to try to sleep.
In the hospital Bob tells Fr Sidd that he must go to Sarah to inform her of events. As Bob dresses Fr Sidd offers him coffee and Bob accepts. Fr Sidd leaves the room. Moments later a Doctor enters the room and asks Bob to sit on the bed. The doctor sympathises with Bob on the death of his brother and informs him of the suicide of Barry Hanlon. Bob immediately falls apart and has to get away. He dashes to the main entrance. When outside he hails a taxi and instructs the driver to take him to Sarah’s house.
The taxi is outside Sarah’s home and Bob jumps out. He dashes to the door and knocks on it. A Nurse opens the door and Bob rushes in. She tells him that Sarah is dying and the Doctor is with her. He follows the Nurse upstairs and they enter Sarah’s bedroom. Dr Smith is sitting by the side of the bed. Bob sits on the edge of the bed and asks if she can hear him to gently squeeze his hand which she does. He tells her that he found Billy but he would not return. Sarah opens her eyes.
The room is empty with only Billy sitting on the edge of the bed holding Sarah’s hand. Her tears are flowing as she tells him she loves him and is sorry for hurting him. She stares at him and tells him he has Danny’s face and eyes. He kisses her on the forehead and tells her that he loves her too. He tells her that she is a perfect mother and to go now for her reward from God and to be with Danny, the true love of her life. She closes her eyes for a moment and reopens them.
Sarah whispers the word ‘absolution’ to Bob. He begins to pray and Sarah’s hand slips from his. Bob looks at her peaceful face. He finishes praying and stands up as the nurse lifts the white sheet over Sarah’s face. Dr Smith whispers she is at peace now as Bob silently walks out of the room. Downstairs he opens the door and steps outside. The sun is rising behind nearby trees and soft beams of light pour onto his face. He raises his hand and gently removes the collar from around his neck as he walks dejected toward the garden gates.
Inside the small country church the congregation are starting to depart to the sound of lone bell. At the foot of the altar there are three coffins. Bob, wearing a grey suit, white shirt and black tie, is standing there staring at them. Soon the church is empty and a group of men dressed in black, the undertakers, approach Bob and tell him that the time has come to bring the coffins outside. Bob asks for a few minutes alone and the undertakers walk away. Bob raises his head to see Fr Sidd standing on the steps of the altar.
Fr Sidd observes ‘I see from your attire that you have made your choice’ Bob hangs his head and remains silent. Fr Sidd tells him he is not listening to God. He explains that death is God’s way of speaking to mankind. When God takes a sibling he takes the past, when he takes a parent he takes the present, when he takes a child he takes the future. God has taken all three from Bob and left him with nothing. Fr Sidd explains that now Bob has been brought by divine forces back to a state of childlike grace.
Bob remains standing in silence. Slowly he raises his head to answer but Fr Sidd has left the altar. Bob turns, walks down the aisle to the church doors, he opens them and the blinding enters. He steps back away from the blinding light into the shadows. He watches the undertakers re-enter and begin to roll the three coffins down the aisle. From behind the sacristy door comes three priests in full vestments as they follow the coffins. The coffins are rolled outside and turned in three separate directions with each followed by one priest and small groups of mourners.
Nearby Sarah’s open grave Billy steps out from behind a large headstone. Behind him emerges an old man (MR. MORIARTY 80). Billy looks around and recognises him but tells him to go away. The old man listens as Billy speaks, ‘your real son needs you more than I do don’t abandon him like you did me’. Mr Moriarty tells Billy that he was conceived during Sarah’s relationship with Gary. He explains he loved Sarah but the romance was doomed because she shunned it and made him promise not to reveal himself and she would keep the secret from his wife.
Billy walks to the grave and places a flower on it. He makes his way to a nearby parked car. He sees Bob sitting alone outside the church. He approaches and calmly reveals that he always knew who his father was. He tells Bob he believes he is a true priest and that God had called him to Glen Oisin because he was needed. He tells him he is convinced that there is some higher power and that Bob had succeeded in showing him that his mother loved and protected him and others by keeping his father’s identity a secret.
Both men begin to walk to Billy’s car. Billy tells Bob that he had spoken to his father, many years earlier, and now, as he always did, he would continue to respect his mother’s wishes. As Billy sits into his car he tells Bob that ‘you are a messenger of God’ and to never doubt it. Bob puts his hand in his pocket and takes out the miniature Mother and Child statue that Fr Sidd had given him and places it into Billy’s hand whispering this is a gift from your mother. Billy looks at it, thanks him and departs.
Bob walks towards the church where Fr Sidd is standing at the door. Fr Sidd tells Bob he will soon retire. He tells him ‘it’s not a bad parish and the parishioners need a good priest’ and here would be the best place for Bob to continue his priesthood. Bob steps through the doors of the church and tells Fr Sidd there is nothing he would like more. Fr Sidd tells Bob that he has a christening in an hour and maybe he would like to do it. Bob smiles and agrees. The old priest closes the big church doors.