The Wind That Shakes The Barley : Movie Review

Award winning director Ken Loach ‘s visit to town last Monday to support the fundraising screening of his film The Wind That Shakes The Barley prompted me to write a review about this film. The screening was organised by the  Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association at the Tricycle Theatre as part of a fundraising effort. At the screening, Loach urged audience to see the connection between the story behind the film and the situation that is happening in Abu Dis, Palestine where the people are facing a lack of access to education, healthcare and food because of the dividing wall set by Israel.

Movie Review: The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Films like The Last Samurai, Michael Collins and The Patriot all have the same basis that make a movie about wars of independence watchable and sympathetic – the romantic telling of the other side of the story. And that is what Ken Loach exactly portrayed in his film The Wind That Shakes The Barley.

The film, set in 1920s Ireland, is about the fight of the IRA guerrillas against the British for their atrocities towards the Irish during the ruling. After witnessing his close friend beaten to death by British soldiers, Damien O’Donovan abandons his promising career as a doctor and joins older brother Teddy in a dangerous and violent fight for freedom. As the freedom fighters bring the British to a breaking point, both sides agree to a treaty to end the war that has caused bloodshed. Unfortunately, despite the apparent victory, Irish civil war erupts and the brothers find themselves in a conflict pitting themselves against one another as sworn enemies.

Loach’s ability to portray the conflicts inherent in his characters and then unravelling the knots, brought the film to a platform where audience can relate to the characters. His formula of casting Irish actors that came from the same places as depicted in the movie also generated some passion of the time.

His sparing depiction of violence despite it being the crux of the story  cleverly added a life of its own when in some scenes he lets the audiences’s imagination take its course. As suggestion is often better than showing, the only fist-gripping scene we see is the emblematic one where Teddy’s nails are being pulled out one by one by British officers during an interrogation.

The film gained some controversial reviews when it came out in 2006 with critics saying that it was Anti-British and Pro-IRA but according to Loach he believes that the telling of the other side of the story is an essential part of Britain’s history.

“I wanted to tell the story on how imperialists behave from the other perspective – a story that needed to be watched with humility.”


The film is available on dvd at


About Hana Kamaruddin

Mommy, journalist, copywriter, cook and running enthusiast.
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