1999 - United Kingdom / Ireland - 98 minutes
Writers - Deirdre Dowling, Gerry Gregg, and Stuart Hepburn
Director - Sydney Macartney
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
I never fail to be amazed and horrified by the evil that has been predicated in the history of the world in the name of religion, and it seems that the machinations of the Catholic Church in Twentieth Century Ireland rank right up there near the top - considering that the wisdom of history and modern times should have had some sobering effect.
A Love Divided is the story of a real family scarred by ignorant intolerance and prejudice all in the name of an inane Church doctrine. At the beginning of the film, we are offered a view of the bucolic life in a small Irish village in which Sheila and Sean Cloney are happily married with two young children. Sean is Catholic and Sheila is Protestant, but she has no qualms with their children being raised as Catholic. There is no sign of any animosity between the Catholics and Protestants in the village. The peaceful and loving relationships are soon shattered when Sheila expresses the desire to have their older child attend the Protestant school. The local priest takes it upon himself to forbid this "sin" and soon has Sheila's husband and the entire Catholic population of the village turned against her as well as her father, the local dairy farmer. In an act of defiance and desperation, Sheila kidnaps her two daughters and flees from the area.
Special note should be given to Orla Brady who plays Sheila. She gives an extremely powerful performance in which the viewer is drawn in to the emotional trauma in which she decides to reject the wishes of a husband she deeply loves in order to express her fervent desire to establish herself as independent from the pressures of the establishment. On an equal footing is Liam Cunningham who plays Sean for he gives a realistic portrait of a man not nearly as complex as his wife who is torn between his love for her and the influence of Church and community.
If fiction, this film would have been a compelling and interesting drama. Considering it is true, it changes to a horrific tragedy. In real life, the people and the village never fully recovered from the events that took place there. It took almost half a century for the Church to acknowledge its negative role in the events, and even though Sheila and Sean lived out their lives in the area, they never fully recovered from what was done to them by the religious leaders and their fellow villagers.
Whether it be denying basic rights to education of choice, crashing planes into buildings, subjugating women, condemning whole races, or just plain on torture and murder, we humans certainly have the ability to use religion as a powerful negative force in our society.
April 24, 2006