The Wind that Shakes the Barley covers two parts of the struggle for the Northern Irish to gain their own state. So it is a political film.
The movie begins in 1920. The first part covers how the Irish Republican Army came to be. Considering how horribly Irish were treated by the British Army (which had some Northern Irish as enlistees). The idea is that if you take away men’s dignity, they will find a way to get it back. This section has the brothers Teddy (Padraic Delaney) and Damien (Cillian Murphy) on the same side, to the point of killing a young man who ratted them out. Then, after several guerilla type activities the British offer a truce to form a Free State. The problem is that it is free in name only, still British, still loyal to the King. This causes a rift between the brothers. Teddy becomes a Free Stater and Damien remains loyal to the idea of the Republic. This allows the story to tack on a family situation that it ignored for most of the film.
The actors all do well enough and Ken Loach, director, did well enough framing everything. The problem is that, when it isn’t incomprehensible, it’s dull.
About 20% of the time the British are lining up or imprisoning Irishmen and screaming while the Irishmen scream too. Then after the Free State is declared, the Free Staters take the place of the British and about 10% more time is spent yelling incomprehensibly. If this is supposed to be a metaphor, then I get it, I get it, I didn’t need to see it over and over again. If it supposed to make me feel sympathy for the Irish, then I get it too. When they aren’t screaming over each other, they are talking politics. YAWN.
The movie is a full 2 hours and I really couldn’t get into it because, despite the sympathy, there was very little else to care about. At one point Damien goes to see a “sick” child—the child isn’t ill he is just very malnourished. Instead of focusing more on this and more reasons why they would be willing to take on the guerilla tactics they do, they focus on training the boys how to crawl on their bellies without their butts in the air. In short, there was plenty of time and space to tell stories of exploitation and the other non-violent ways the British abused the Northern Irish in the years shortly after Ireland gained independence. But Mr. Loach decides to focus on training.
This is not a slam on Catholics, but the movie only covered Catholics. If the whole Northern Irish debate centered around Catholic only, it likely would have been settled long ago. Part of the Northern Irish problem is the Orangemen (Protestants who want to remain loyal to Britain and to remain part of it). Barley makes no mention of this at all as if the only people affected were Catholics.
Still the movie was so lost that adding an extra dimension would have sent a runaway train speeding faster down the tracks to a bad ending.
Finally, and this is the worst thing I can say about any film, I just didn’t care.
What did you think of this review?