The Wind That Shakes the Barley

"Very Good"

The Wind That Shakes the Barley Review


A large contention at last year's Cannes Film Festival was held over the Palme D'Or recipient, which had been handed to the Dardenne brothers for L'Enfant in 2005. Upsetting expected winners Volver, Babel, and Marie Antoinette at the 2006 Cannes fest, Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley ended up taking the prize. Stridently political in its telling of the birth of the IRA and its eventual separation into factions, Loach has been working towards this for most of his life. His films have always been political but they've been hidden under the guise of modern social workings. Here, for better or for worse, the politics are coaxed to the foreground and the story braves harsh waters to balance the politics and the humanity of its subject matter.

Loach casts the narrative birth of the IRA at the feet of two brothers: Damien and Teddy O'Donovan (Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney, respectively). Damien's passive-aggressive nature towards the Black and Tans (the British Army) quickly gets sucked into Teddy's volatile rage when he witnesses a beating at a train station, moments before he was to leave for med school. Through torture (nail-pulling that makes Syriana look like a Friday afternoon in the Hamptons), shootouts, and political ebb and flow, the IRA fights dirty for independence. When the Anglo-Irish Treaty is signed (giving Ireland Free State/Dominion status), the IRA splits into the Old IRA (Damien's boys) and the National Army (Teddy's Treaty-friendly pack).

Though they are brothers in the film, there's an interesting way in that there is little familial talk or emotion that goes on between Teddy and Damien. Loach downplays their brotherhood and keeps the movie focused on the country's struggle rather than the personal one. This is not to say there aren't moments of human drama: Damien's relationship with the fiery-haired Sinead (an outstanding Orla Fitzgerald) gives a brief respite from the political strife. But even here, the main attraction is their political stance; if Damien had gone off to med school, Sinead wouldn't be holding any flowers.

Just as much as it's about the echoing rift between the IRA and the National Army boys, Loach's film also holds ground as a film steeped in the epic struggle between imagery and story. Phenomenally shot by Loach regular Barry Ackroyd, Barley reaches moments of grace in imagery (hiding in the weeds before an ambush, being caught by the Brits in the emerald dome of a forest) but these moments are constantly rushed to get back to the politics of the situation.

Both Murphy and Delaney fight to etch their characters as more than political spheres of thought, but when the split begins in the film's second half, it becomes harder and harder to see them as more than two distinct sides of a coin. Ultimately, the politics outweigh the poetry but we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Barley succeeds despite its hesitations and far-reaching ambition to tell such a large story in such modest terms. Ken Burns would struggle to contain this. You can't knock Loach's passion though; it's what keeps the film's head out of the clouds.

I can make this cup of whiskey explode... with my mind!



The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Facts and Figures

In Theaters: Friday 23rd June 2006

Box Office USA: $1.8M

Box Office Worldwide: $22.9M

Budget: $6.5M

Distributed by: IFC First Take

Production compaines: Sixteen Films, Matador Pictures, Regent Capital, UK Film Council, Bórd Scannán na hÉireann, Element Films, BIM Distribuzione, EMC Produktion, Tornasol Films, Diaphana Films, Pathé Distribution, Cinéart, TV3 Television Network Ireland, Filmcoopi Zürich, Irish Film Board, Oil Flick Films No.2

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 100 Rotten: 13

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Rebecca O'Brien

Starring: as Damien O'Donovan, Pádraic Delaney as Teddy, as Dan, Gerard Kearney as Donnacha, as Gogan, as John Hamilton, Laurence Barry as Micheail, Sabrina Barry as Julia, Kieran Aherne as Sweeney, Orla Fitzgerald as Sinead, Scott Peden as Black and Tan Soldier

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.