The citizens of Kilnerry live quiet, repressed lives — and they like it that way, thank you very much. Mayor Jerry (Tony Triano) and his wife, town gossip Brigid (Sheila Stasack), haven’t loved one another fully in years, but it’s no matter. Widow Aednat McLaughlin (Sybil Lines) loves to dance but hasn’t bothered since her husband died; her faith keeps her company. Widower Fergal (Roger Hendricks Simon) hasn’t even considered moving on from his wife’s passing decades ago. Nessa (Kathy Searle) pines desperately after town sheriff Gary O’Reilly (Daniel Keith), who is as high-strung as he is completely oblivious to her obvious come-ons. It’s not a town where anyone goes to have fun. Everything works exactly the way it’s always worked. Everyone behaves the way they’re expected. Change doesn’t exist in this corner of New England.
Until one day, when a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency arrives to hold a town meeting and explains that the local factory, known for producing a chemical for dog shampoo, has been expelling toxic byproducts into the local water supply. Nothing fatal but substantial enough in quantity to affect 25% or more of the community’s fishing exports, too. A few upgrades to the plant will fix the problem, but citizens already exposed might start exhibiting side effects of “P172.” What side effects might those be? Well, the main one is increased, insatiable libido. Lab mice exposed to P172 subsequently sexed themselves to death. Not the best news for a community where open discussion of sex is worse than armed robbery.
The premise may sound like the opening act of a porno, but Love in Kilnerry turns out to be a silly, sweet adult comedy about opening yourself up to different forms of love after a lifetime of hiding from it. Keith, who also writes and directs, creates a little cast of characters where the median age is well over 50. It’s a lot of material about middle-aged and elderly people learning to love or love again. Don’t get me wrong: It’s often crude and lewd. It’s just never exploitative. Much of the humor comes from older characters screaming such zingers as “Just eat away the cobwebs and hit this!” I’ll admit: I laughed at it. The sweetness keeps it level. Not all of the humor lands, but the film as a whole doesn’t take itself so seriously that the cringy bits ruin the entire experience.
It’s not all about sex, either. The best story in the film is the relationship between Aednat and Fergal, whose miscommunications don’t stop them from becoming dance partners and winning a competition with a risqué routine. I also appreciated the push and pull of Nessa and Gary’s relationship. Sure, it’s a given that her patience will eventually win out over Gary’s inherent prudishness, but it’s well-paced and never portrays her role in things as accepting of his bad behavior during his middle-act rejection.
Younger audiences might cringe at the sight of AARP members joking about orgies and fetish leather wear, but few of the jokes are made cheaply and the whole story comes together well by the end. A late-stage twist (that feels predictable from the first moment) flips the narrative on its head, opening up to Keith’s thematic statement about learning to love one another in whatever way we find most comfortable in our hearts. It’s saccharine, sure, but overwhelmingly sex-positive and silly in all the right ways.