It may be somewhat surprising that an English director would be directing a movie about that is sympathetic to the IRA and Irish Independence, but when you hear it’s veteran director Ken Loach it’s a bit less surprising. Roach is known for his political commentary in his movies and he doesn’t care who he’s targeting. The Wind That Shakes the Barley won the 2006 Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and deservedly so. While the film is a serious exploration of Ireland’s struggle with British occupation and their fight for independence, it’s also a look at how the struggles can also impact the people who are fighting against the oppression and the choices they make.
Set in 1920s Ireland, the film also focuses on the story of two brothers, Damien O’Donovan, played by Cillian Murphy, and his older brother Teddy, played by Padraic Delaney. Damien is eager leave Ireland further his medical studies in London, while Teddy is committed to fighting for independence against the British government and English soldiers. After witnessing a friends death at the hands of the British Soldiers and subsequently witnessing the harassment of an Irish train engineer by British troops Damien abandons his plans to study, instead he becomes a member of the Irish Republican Army. Joining his brother and friends he grew up with.
The Wind That Shakes The Barley is something you’d expect from the time period, a sober, sad look at life under British oppresion. You quickly become sympathetic to the plight of the Irish and want to hate the English for their cruelty and brutality. It would be unfair to say it’s one sided though, while Roach portrays the English as cruel and displays their barbaric tactics used against the IRA and the civilians he also shows the ferociousness of the IRA and how brutal they can be as they search for a national identity.
There are few in any faults that can be found in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Loach does an excellent job directing a great script. It was also refreshing to see a predominantly Irish cast as well. Although I’ll admit that in the beginning I found it a bit difficult at times understanding what a few people were saying because their accents were so thick. With solid acting and directing it would be remiss of me not to recommend this movie. There’s a reason it won the Palme D’Or at Cannes.