Based on a true story and set in Ireland in the ‘50s, A Love Divided is a minor but entertaining and well-acted addition to the growing body of films about religious strife in that bedeviled country. This time the focus is on a Protestant woman, Sheila (Orla Bradly), who marries a Catholic man, Sean (Liam Cunningham), in a small village in the largely Catholic South. As a condition of the marriage, the couple must sign a document promising to enroll any children they bear in a Catholic school. But when the oldest of their two daughters reaches school age, the wife changes her mind — and the husband doesn’t. Soon, what starts as a family squabble becomes a nationwide scandal thanks to the efforts of the village priest, Father Stafford (Tony Doyle).
When Sheila flees to Scotland with her two children (there seems to be a sort of Underground Railroad for runaway Protestants), Father Stafford uses her disappearance as an excuse to turn up the heat on the village’s remaining non-Catholics and declares a boycott on all Protestant merchants until the children are returned. Soon old friends are exchanging blows and property is being destroyed. One watches with a growing sense of frustration and annoyance — like all close-quarters bickering seen from a distance, the stakes seem too ridiculously low to justify this amount of raw hatred. What’s wrong with these people?
All this could be construed as egregiously anti-Catholic — a bully-boy priest appeals to his flock’s baser instincts while behind the scenes a cynical hierarchy always backs the winning horse — but the larger dynamic here is the majority lording over the minority. One can well imagine a similar situation with the religions reversed. In any event, this is an old-fashioned film which offers the viewer the pleasure of seeing oppressed people fight back and a particularly dastardly villain get his well-deserved comeuppance.
Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward, Detroit) Nov.30-Dec. 2. Call 313-833-3237.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.