The Wind That Shakes the Barley

The Wind That Shakes the Barley ★★★★

Ken Loach's Palme d'Or-winning feature, The Wind That Shakes the Barley is beautiful and heartbreaking. The cinematography is perfect here, and the color palette and lighting really match the action and tone of the film well. Everything from a directorial standpoint is effective, and Loach has crafted a well-paced, emotionally-moving, and powerful film.

The performances are strong all around, with standout leading turns coming from Cillian Murphy and Pádraic Delaney as Irish revolutionary brothers Damien and Teddy. Game of Thrones veteran Liam Cunningham (Dan) is also memorable, and Orla Fitzgerald gives an emotionally-powerful performance as Sinead. Perhaps no one else in the cast can match the star-power of Murphy, but everyone does a first-rate job, and Loach manages their talents well.

This is a film that does not shy away from the internal conflicts and disagreements that come naturally for any group looking for major, revolutionary change. The film challenges the ideals and beliefs of its protagonists, leaving them forever changed by the conclusion. There is a depth and richness to each of the major players here that is uncommon in many films about armed conflict, where the audience is usually treated to a "good guys" vs. "bad guys" scenario. The entire affair adds up to one fantastic gut punch of a conclusion that is among the best you'll see in a film.

As only my second feature from Loach (the other being Kes, which I loved), he is a major filmmaker who has been woefully underrepresented by my viewing habits, and I am eager to see more from him in the near future.

Matthew liked this review