Love in Kilnerry has all the elements of classic British comedies that juxtapose quaint conservative settings with something risque (The Full Monty, Kinky Boots, Calendar Girls, etc.). The film trades an England locale for a sleepy New England town that looks like it belongs in a snow globe, populated with close-knit residents who live quiet and repressed lives. The gorgeous landscape shots are brightly lit: the autumnal colors and green valleys nearly pop off the screen. The town residents are afraid of change and often sweep their unhappiness under the rug, whether from a failing marriage, losing a loved one, or pining after someone but being too shy to confess their attraction.
Their picturesque world is rocked when a representative from the Environmental Protection Agency holds a town meeting and explains that a local factory has been dumping toxic byproducts into the water supply. This may cause some side effects such as a ravenous libido that the straight-laced town sheriff Gary O’Reilly (an affable Daniel Keith) must try to control. Keith also writes and directs Love in Kilnerry which allows him to balance such fantastic performances from a large ensemble. Much to the chagrin of Nessa (Kathy Searle in an adorably high-strung role) who has a crush on him, Gary must resist succumbing to the aphrodisiac so that he can stop the townspeople’s crazy antics such as having public sex or riding their bikes naked.
It’s refreshing to see a film that focuses on older characters, with the majority of them being over 50 years old. The premise of elders spouting profanity-laden zingers and engaging in raunchy sex acts (complete with dominatrix outfits, orgies, and sex dungeons!) is, obviously, played for laughs, but the film never makes fun of them for being sexual at an old age. Rather, the humor is found in the relief these winsome characters feel now that they are free of their inhibitions. The talented ensemble is able to make these silly and exaggerated moments feel genuine.
There’s a kernel of sweetness in the lewd comedy that keeps Love in Kilnerry from being exploitative, largely drawn from the quaintness of the town and its inhabitants. Occasionally the jokes are a bit too over-the-top and cringy, and the side plots and various characters are hard to keep track of, but overall the film is a delightful whirlwind of a farce. Love in Kilnerry is a quirky, sex-positive tale about opening yourself up to new experiences that is irresistibly charming.