The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)




UK | Ireland


Cillian Murphy, Pádraic Delaney, Liam Cunningham, Orla Fitzgerald, Laurence Barry, Mary Murphy, Myles Horgan, Martin Lucey, Roger Allam, John Crean, Damien Kearney, Frank Bourke, Shane Casey, Máirtín de Cógáin, William Ruane, Fiona Lawton, Sean McGinley, Kevin O'Brien


Ireland, 1920. Workers from field and country unite to form volunteer guerrilla armies to face the 'Black and Tans' squads that are being shipped from Britain to block Ireland's bid for independence. Driven by a deep sense of duty and love for his country, Damien O'Donovan (Cillian Murphy) abandons his burgeoning career as a doctor and joins his brother, Teddy (Pádraic Delaney), in a dangerous and violent fight for freedom. As the freedom fighters' bold tactics bring the British to breaking point, both sides finally agree to a treaty to end the bloodshed. But, despite the apparent victory, civil war erupts and the families, who fought side by side, find themselves pitted against one another as sworn enemies, putting their loyalties to the ultimate test.


Brutal, intense, and heartbreaking, The Wind That Shakes the Barley wonderfully outlines a tragic period of Irish history.

A decade after Land and Freedom, following the Spanish Civil War, British Ken Loach came back with another piece of twentieth-century history. This time he deals with the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. 

Obligated to take a stand, Loach he takes the side of the oppressed, the Irish. But he is clearly not intentioned in making IRA propaganda, or portraying Irish as unblemished heroes and martyrs, and that is shown by two pretty much identical scenes, one in the middle and the other at the end of the film. Those two scenes show brutality and atrocity of civil war, and underline its ability to set nation against nation, man against compatriot, and brother against brother.

The writing is a good and bad. While the dialogue is good, and the story works fine, the characters lack of something. The portrayal of the characters might be maximised by body language, but the character development is rather poor, and the film fails in creating characters you care about.

The photography is superb, and the costumes are excellent, but the sceneries are a bit monotonous and repetitive considering all Ireland has to offer.

The acting is overall good. Cillian Murphy convincingly plays Damien O'Donovan, even though Pádraic Delaney does a better job in the role of his brother Teddy, as he is blessed with a more interesting character. Liam Cunningham stands out among the supporting cast.

This may not be a masterpiece, but it's worth the time. 


Damien: It's easy to know what you are against, but quite another to know what you are for.


  1. This was a film I really wanted to like because I love Cillian Murphy, but I was so slow and ultimately forgettable for me. I was disappointed. I'm glad it worked so well for you though.

  2. This sounds interesting. I never bothered to see what it was about, I just knew Cillian Murphy was in it and thought I'd get around to watching it sometime. But now I want to watch it a little more.

    1. I watched it only because of Cillian Murphy but at the end I was pleasantly surprised