'Love' stands in the cross-fire of different faiths

You've got to admire a movie with the nerve to call itself "A Love Divided"; the makers of this Irish drama might as well have named it "No Men Within 100 Yards of the Theater" for all the appeal that title's going to get them.

But the soap-opera-ish moniker is appropriate for this picture-pretty film set in a 1950s Irish village. Based on a true story (which, alas, is no guarantee of a believable movie), it follows Catholic Sean (Liam Cunningham) and his Protestant wife, Sheila (beautiful Orla Brady), whose love is tested by religious differences. Their entire town eventually is caught up in the schism, with a controlling priest (Tony Doyle) fanning the flames.

Brady's fierce performance breathes some life into the film, and the Irish countryside is exquisite as ever (the cinematography has a lovely faded quality). But the drama feels artificially pumped-up: The various Catholic and Protestant confrontations seem overly theatrical, and Sean and Sheila get a little lost in the story. (Sean, in particular, has several changes of heart that seem a bit too convenient.)

While the message of tolerance in "A Love Divided" is welcome, a documentary about the real-life Sean and Sheila (who only recently received a formal apology from the Catholic Church, some 50 years after the events of the movie) might have been more compelling.

Moira Macdonald can be reached at 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

"A Love Divided"


With Liam Cunningham, Orla Brady, Tony Doyle, Jim Norton. Directed by Syd McCartney, from a screenplay by Stuart Hepburn. 98 minutes. Not rated. Varsity through Thursday.