Film Review: The Wind That Shakes the Barley – 7/10

‘It’s easy to know what you are against, but quite another to know what you are for…’

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I’m having a bit of existential crisis with writing at the moment. Where I used to find joy in my inane scribblings, all to often it kind of feels like a chore these days, a sentence that fills me with a great sadness. While it is easier to write about something if I either really hate it or really love it, the stuff in the middle is more difficult to tackle.

I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words over countless reviews and articles and too often writing feels like shouting into the void. For those of you still with me, I humbly thank you for your support. I know you don’t come here for philosophical musings, dear reader, but I feel I must caveat this review with the information that it has taken me over a month to get round to writing it and that my memory of The Wind That Shakes the Barley is decidedly patchy.

Damien (Cillian Murphy) and Teddy (Padraic Delaney) are brothers living through the Irish war of independence and the tyranny of the British army. Damien abandons a promising medical career to campaign for justice while Teddy pursues an all together different path.

Ken Loach is a director who has made a career out of kitchen sink realism and highly charged political statements. The Wind That Shakes… combines the two to create a furious condemnation of British interference in Ireland. Loach has never shied away from borderline propaganda in his works and it is clear which side of the argument he lands on here.

Politics aside, Loach’s lament against the British is also notable for a typically stunning performance from the always intensely hypnotic Cillian Murphy and a fine supporting turn from Liam Cunningham as Murphy’s right hand man. It can be presumed that this was good practice for Cunningham’s most famous role as right hand man to Stannis Baratheon, First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm and burner of children.

In the end, perhaps in spite of myself, I still ended up finding pockets of enjoyment when writing this review, so perhaps it isn’t time to hang up the ol’ laptop just yet. In terms of the film, it isn’t Loach’s best but it is surely worth seeking out for fans of the subject matter or fans of Loach himself.

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