The Wind That Shakes the Barley

No valid json found

Still of Liam Cunningham in The Wind That Shakes the BarleyStill of Cillian Murphy in The Wind That Shakes the BarleyCillian Murphy at event of The Wind That Shakes the BarleyStill of Cillian Murphy in The Wind That Shakes the BarleyKen Loach in The Wind That Shakes the BarleyStill of Cillian Murphy, Aidan O'Hare and Padraic Delaney in The Wind That Shakes the Barley

A sympathetic look at Republicans in early 20th century Ireland, and two brothers who are torn apart by anti-Brit rebellion.

Release Year: 2006

Rating: 7.5/10 (21,526 voted)

Critic's Score: 82/100

Director: Ken Loach

Stars: Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Liam Cunningham

Ireland, 1920. Damien and Teddy are brothers. But while the latter is already the leader of a guerrilla squad fighting for the independence of his motherland, Damien, a medical graduate of University College, would rather further his training at the London hospital where he has found a place. However, shortly before his departure, he happens to witness atrocities committed by the ferocious Black and Tans and finally decides to join the resistance group led by Teddy. The two brothers fight side by side until a truce is signed. But peace is short-lived and when one faction of the freedom-fighters accepts a treaty with the British that is regarded as unfair by the other faction, a civil war ensues, pitting Irishmen against Irishmen, brothers against brothers, Teddy against Damien....

Cillian Murphy - Damien O'Sullivan
Padraic Delaney - Teddy O'Sullivan (as Pádraic Delaney)
Liam Cunningham - Dan
Orla Fitzgerald - Sinead
Mary O'Riordan - Peggy (as Mary Riordan)
Mary Murphy - Bernadette
Laurence Barry - Micheail
Damien Kearney - Finbar
Frank Bourke - Leo
Myles Horgan - Rory
Martin Lucey - Congo
Aidan O'Hare - Steady Boy
Shane Casey - Kevin
John Crean - Chris
Máirtín de Cógáin - Sean (as Mairtin de Cogain)

Taglines: Winner of the PALME D'OR at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.


Official Website: Bim Distribuzione [Italy] | IFC Films |

Release Date: 23 June 2006

Filming Locations: Ballyvorney, County Cork, Ireland

Opening Weekend: £390,720 (UK) (25 June 2006) (105 Screens)

Gross: $22,889,018 (Worldwide)

Technical Specs

Runtime: UK:

Did You Know?

In the cinema scene, the man at the piano is Neil Brand, one of Britain's leading silent cinema accompanists, who in 2006 featured significantly as a composer and accompanist in the BBC television series "Paul Merton's Silent Clowns".

Anachronisms: As the Black and Tans drive through the village, they pass a blue house with modern PVC windows.

Damien: I tried not to get into this war, and did, now I try to get out, and can't.

User Review

One of Loach's best

Rating: 9/10

The remarkably low rating that this film has so far received (4.1 as of Thursday 8th of June) is indicative of its ability to raise the hackles of people who haven't even seen it. How can it be otherwise when the film has not yet been released? 135 people have voted; have all of these 135 people actually watched the film? Of course not. They're just voting on the basis of their perceptions or assumptions concerning its political agenda. IMDb voters are not alone in this; already Simon Heffer in The Daily Telegraph, Dominic Lawson in The Independent, Ruth Dudley-Edwards in The Daily Mail and Michael Gove in The Times are attacking a film they haven't seen (by their own admission). These attacks are the predictable reaction of empire apologists unable to abide the depiction of the dark and brutal underside of that imperial machine, or the suggestion that anyone on the receiving end of that brutality might be justified in rebelling against it. The title of Dudley-Edward's lazy hack-job says it all, really: 'Why does Ken Loach loathe his country?' Loach is a traitor, and must be punished, the rotter.

It's a pity that this political controversy seems poised to overwhelm discussion of the film, because it's an extremely able piece of cinema and deserves to be seen as such. Barry Ackroyd's cinematography is superb, ably capturing the beauty of the Irish countryside without indulging in it. We are rooted in a locale without being lavished with pretty pictures. The acting is also excellent. The charismatic Cillian Murphy carries the movie, but the support from Liam Cunningham, Orla Fitzgerald, Aidan O'Hare and Padraic Delaney is also commendable.

But it's the collaboration between Loach and his scriptwriter Paul Laverty that makes the film something like a masterpiece. The grim progress from the murder of an Irish youth to the growth of an armed I.R.A. campaign, with its attendant violence (shown in stark and horrifying detail) is expertly managed; the only let-up comes not far from the end, after the signing of the 1921 peace treaty. Loach tries to show the brief jubilation and relief that ensues, but in terms of momentum almost drops the ball. The pace is re-established in time for the inexorable tragic denouement, and the film's final emotional impact is considerable. The load is occasionally lightened by the odd touch of Loach's characteristic wry comedy, such as the belligerence of the opening hurling game, the teenage message-boy who loses his message, the melodramatic pianist accompanying the newsreel announcing the momentous news of the creation of the Free State.

One of the most disturbing scenes occurs when a group of I.R.A. men return from a successful battle and discover a farmhouse being attacked and destroyed by a group of British soldiers. The rebels, who have no ammunition left, are forced to look on, concealed in the bushes; they watch powerless as the farmhouse's inhabitants are abused. We watch along with the characters, just as helpless as they are. Why do we watch? Do we want to intervene, to play the hero and save the day? Do we perhaps enjoy it? The trouble with many so-called anti-war films, as Loach has said, is that they outwardly condemn the violence while at the same time encouraging (intentionally or not) a vicarious pleasure in the thrill of it all. We want to take part, we imagine how we would behave in such circumstances (of course, we usually imagine ourselves behaving with impeccable bravery and surviving to fight another day). This scene, rather than placing us in the thick of the action, forces us to occupy the position of impotent bystander. Perhaps this is what being a film-goer is all about: powerless voyeurism. As we watch the country tear itself apart in civil war, manipulated by a devious and callous colonial master, this point becomes all the more pertinent. A quietly devastating film.


Comments are closed.