A Love Divided

Based on a 1957 incident that shattered the Irish coastal town of Fetherd-on-Sea, Country Wexford, this well-acted drama finds a microcosm of the country's ongoing Troubles in a marital spat that, fueled by partisan interference, blew up into a donneybrook involving an entire community. Protestant Sheila Kelly (Orla Brady) and Catholic Sean Cloney (Liam...read more

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Based on a 1957 incident that shattered the Irish coastal town of Fetherd-on-Sea, Country Wexford, this well-acted drama finds a microcosm of the country's ongoing Troubles in a marital spat that, fueled by partisan interference, blew up into a donneybrook involving an entire community. Protestant Sheila Kelly (Orla Brady) and Catholic Sean Cloney (Liam Cunningham) enter into their mixed marriage convinced they can handle whatever lies ahead. Their hometown has a long history of peaceful cohabitation between Catholics and the Protestant minority — and besides, they're deeply in love. After getting through three weddings — a lavish Catholic ceremony for his family, a smaller Protestant one for hers, and a simple exchange of vows at a registry just for them — the couple move to a farm on the outskirts of town and, in time, have two daughters. At the Catholic wedding, Sheila signed a "ne temere" pledge, swearing that the Cloney children will be raised Catholic, but begins to have doubts as their eldest approaches school age. It's not so much that she doesn't want her daughter to attend Catholic St. Bridget's as it is that she resents the interference of dogmatic Father Stafford (Tony Doyle). On the first day of classes, she impulsively registers the child at the town's Protestant school; Stafford retaliates by impugning Sean's masculinity and warning him to bring his wife into line. The couple fight and, again acting on impulse, Sheila decamps with the children to Belfast. Fetherd's Catholics rally around Sean, and Father Stafford secretly involves the Church hierarchy, who hire an aggressive lawyer. Sheila, afraid of losing her children, engages her own attorney, who has ties to a Protestant group that advises Sheila to go underground with her girls. Father Stafford in turn organizes a boycott of Protestant-owned businesses, and within weeks neighbor has turned bitterly against neighbor. While the film's exploration of Irish religious intolerance takes it to many familiar areas, the specifics are unfamiliar and fine performances — especially those of leads Cunningham and Brady, who's been called Ireland's Meryl Streep — help keep it from seeming excessively schematic.

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Based on a 1957 incident that shattered the Irish coastal town of Fetherd-on-Sea, Country Wexford, this well-acted drama finds a microcosm of the country's ongoing Troubles in a marital spat that, fueled by partisan interference, blew up into a donneybrook… (more)

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