Movie Review: The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Set in 1920s County Cork, this Palme D’Or winner chronicles two brothers as they rise up at the hands of the brutal Black and Tans, join the IRA, and ultimately end up on opposite sides of Home Rule. A wonderful but difficult-to-watch portrait of the strength of the Irish people, this film covers the gamut including politics, religion, family, starvation, nationalism, suffering, pride, and the steadfastness that so characterized a people with nothing to lose. 

Director Ken Loach gives us Cillian Murphy in yet another brilliant performance as the idealistic doctor Damien, who must confront his principles and question his commitment at every turn on the bumpy road to civil war. Murphy has so many truly difficult scenes and he plays them all with the skill of a virtuoso; he’s a pleasure to watch.

Murphy is backed up by spectacular performances across the board, including several wonderful female performances, surprising in such a male-dominated film. Loach delves into the lives of the women who supported the IRA, running secret messages, cooking for them, and sheltering them always in the face of ugly consequences.

Complicated, thoughtful, imperfect, but utterly hopeful, The Wind That Shakes The Barley is a thrilling addition to the paeon of Irish filmmaking.

Grade: B+

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