Wind That Shakes The Barley
The coffee cup has an idea for what should happen in this scene.

Theatrical Release Date: 06/23/2006 (Ireland), 03/16/2007 (USA)
Director: Ken Loach
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Orla Fitzgerald

Winner of the 2006 Palm D’Or at Cannes, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” comes from respected director Ken Loach and is a story about two brothers who join the beginnings of the Irish Republican Army in an effort to remove the British soldiers from Ireland.

The film is based on documented historical facts and includes some graphic scenes of torture as the British enforced their will upon the Irish people.

Many in England have labeled the film as anti-British and Loach is a well-known Irish director. Putting 2 + 2 together, I think the film could be described as anti-British but I don’t see where the problem lies since the film isn’t misstating what happened in 1920s Ireland.

I don’t see how you make a film like this and don’t take a side. I personally applaud Loach for crafting a film that so effectively conveys the emotions of the Irish people who fought and died for some semblance of independence.

Most of us are familiar with the hostilities in Ireland since that time and the film ends its story as Northern Ireland is separated from the rest of the mainland.

As for the film itself, while I certainly appreciate the history lesson, I think Loach could have made a more streamlined and complete film with a few tweaks.

The acting was excellent across the board, starting with Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney as brothers who join the resistance movement and Orla Fitzgerald as Murphy’s love interest/fellow resistance member.

However, whereas Murphy and Fitzgerald’s story is given a beginning, middle and end – all subtly crafted into the framework of the film, the brothers’ relationship could have used some more development.

Partially due to the Irish accents, which often take time for these American ears to understand better, I didn’t even realize Murphy and Delaney were brothers for about half an hour into the film or more.

By the time I did, we had reached the middle portion of the tale and their subsequent issues towards the end of the film carried less impact for me because I didn’t fully realize the gravity and depth of their bond.

The other knock I have on the film is its’ pacing. While the film is gorgeously composed by cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, I think some more editing would have kept the film moving along better.

Several times, I did one of those head bob maneuvers that says “Hey, stay awake you dummy!” and that’s not because the film isn’t interesting. It just moves too slow sometimes.

One of the elements I thought Loach delivered beautifully was seeing the nature of the Irish resistance movement change into the very thing they were fighting against.

At the beginning of the film, there is a scene of British soldiers harassing some of the Irish simply because the letter of the law said that they could. As the film progresses and the Irish take control of the area, there is a fracture between those who think more could be done to remove the British fully and those who think the compromise they reached is the best that can be done.

As such, some of the Irish army begin to harass their own countrymen and women in an effort to look like they have control. The scenes are presented in a near identical manner and exemplify the notion that “power corrupts”.

If you are interested in this time period of Irish history, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” is well worth your time and it gets a strong 3 out of 5 from me. I kept from giving it a higher rating because of the pacing problems and an underdeveloped relationship between the two main characters.

Still, the film is powerful and even if you don’t have any Irish blood in your family, the film’s concepts apply universally and can generate some interesting and controversial talking points.