Film: The Wind That Shakes The Barley 15 rating Year: 2006
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Country: UK Genre: Drama / Historical

Director: Ken Loach/
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Roger Allam, Liam Cunningham

Also see our Guide to Ken Loach, or visit our Ken Loach UK or Ken Loach US stores, or see our reviews of other Ken Loach films It's A Free World, Kes, Looks And Smiles, My Name Is Joe, The Navigators, Poor Cow, Raining Stones, Riff Raff, and Sweet Sixteen.

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The Wind That Shakes The Barley Synopsis - The Wind That Shakes The Barley is set in Cork in Ireland, during the twenties and centres around Damian, a medical student who is set to go to London to train and become a Doctor, and then work in England. In the short time whilst whilst he is preparing himself to leave Cork, he witnesses one of his friends being killed in front of him by the English Army, and the army beating up a railway worker. Damian decides he can't leave and that he needs to stay in Ireland to defend his country against the "occupying" forces. He joins up with the local IRA faction led by his brother, Teddy, and commences his training and then organising his battalion, to resist the British Army. With the brutality escalating on both sides there seems to be a willingness to try and reach agreement, and allow the democratic process to be fulfilled but the brothers have very different views on whether to join the process. Teddy decides that the democratic process is the best way to get his country back, and works to achieve this when he joins an interim government. Damian believes that the process on offer is yet another way for the British to keep the real control of the country, and vows to keep up the armed resistance. With the two brothers now on opposing sides of the armed struggle they are still fighting for the same end result, how can this situation resolve itself.

Review of The Wind That Shakes The Barley - The Wind That Shakes The Barley is a very brave film in every sense of the word. The British publics knowledge about the its country's activities in Ireland can be considered to be cursory at best, so for a film to try and tackle such an issue was certainly brave and very ambitions, but does it work?

As a film or piece of art it certainly works - it is incredibly beautifully shot, the actors are terrific and the story is extremely captivating. It also informs the situation to a British public starved about the realities of the historical situation, but due to the films brevity it cannot truly hope to give a particularly rounded view on the historical situation. What is does amply illustrate is that during this time Britain was still enchanted by its colonial powers and was not keen to give them up. On a smaller scale it also helps to illustrate how the brutality of the occupying force (many veterans of the horrors of the trenches only a few years before) breeds retaliation by the opposition and the situation is amplified with every turn. Loach's approach of setting the conflict on a personal level certainly serves the film in terms of a piece of "entertainment" but given the importance of the story, it is surprising that so much of it is given over to the smaller picture, when a more in depth study of political intrigue may have been more informative and perhaps fulfilling. For me personally the delicate balance between To Entertain / To Inform was not quite achieved here and it could be seen as something of a missed opportunity, had this balance been better achieved I believe this could have been considered Ken Loach's finest hour.

The reasons I recommend The Wind That Shakes The Barley are: 1. Superb performances throughout. 2. A superbly shot film, which like most of Ken Loach's action draws you right into the action.