A Love Divided

on June 01, 2001 by Bridget Byrne
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For a story based on the truth, "A Love Divided" lacks an essential dimension. Its script aims for the emotional rather than the explanatory. Its actors seem cued in to the heartache. It's set in natural surroundings, attractively filmed. It's carefully set dressed with period colors and clothing suitable to the locations--a bit too carefully perhaps, fashion creeping in where it never really held sway. The Irishness of it all is there in the actors' faces and accents. It's a story about troubles that have not gone away but have only worsened since this incident occurred in the 1950s. But despite all of these strong ingredients, it fails to arouse much more than deep annoyance. The true stuff of its reality concerns much more deep-rooted passions, so it's disappointing that although it makes you think--or as the Irish here say, "tink"--for yourself, it doesn't really make you feel for the people it portrays. True sorrow eludes the screen.

It's the story of what happens in Southern Ireland when a Protestant marries a Catholic and they have children. Despite all pledges between the couple that the union is something personal and sacred only unto them and that they'll keep God out of it, that, of course, can't happen, because religion is what has made them who they are--a Protestant and a Catholic. When the Catholic woman wants to renege on another pledge--the one she made to have her children raised Catholic--by refusing to send them to St. Bridget's school to be taught by nuns, fanaticism erupts from beneath the surface of village life.

Although the story is weighted against the Catholic hierarchy that ferments a boycott which leads to everlasting bitterness and violence, it's difficult to sympathize with the mother, who flees from home and husband with her little girls. Bossy priests and a cowardly spouse are not well developed enough onscreen to expose the real grip of the culture and faith she's determined won't bind her kids as it has bound generations before her.

Orla Brady and Liam Cunningham make a good-looking couple, but they seem like actors doing an okay job rather than real people deeply in love and emotionally rent asunder. The actors playing churchmen and the villagers are quickly reduced by the script to token figures unable to stay complex as they are forced to take sides. A brokenhearted musical lament heard a couple of times merely shows up what's missing. And then there's some heavy-handed symbolic stuff with a recalcitrant horse that doesn't like being stuck between plow shafts! Starring Orla Brady, Liam Cunningham, Peter Caffrey and Tony Doyle. Directed by Syd Macartney. Written by Stuart Hepburn. Produced by Alan Moloney, Tim Palmer and Gerry Gregg. A Cinema Guild release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 100 min

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