The Wind That Shakes the Barley
It's 1920s Southern Ireland, and the dreaded Black and Tans are terrorising the country. Damien (Murphy) is all set to go to London to be a doctor when one of his best friends is murdered for not saying his name in English. His brother (Delaney) pleads with him to join the section of the IRA he runs, in retaliation for the killing. When Damien witnesses another unmovitated attack by the 'Tans, he takes his brother up on the offer. The Wind That Shakes The Barely is an undeniably powerful and challenging film, but it doesn't really resonate cinematically the way it could have. Ken Loach, a director whom the term 'realism' was pretty much invented for, uses extremely long takes and allows his actors to fluff their lines without cutting - evidently because that's what real. While it's worked to startling effect before, the period setting here damages his much-celebrated minimalist style. The acting is outstanding all 'round, Murphy and Delaney anchoring the film with two superb turns as the conflicting brothers who have little in common but patriotism; yet, unfortunately not one other character is used to purposeful effect. Liam Cunningham's Dan ostensibly serves as someone to merely support whatever Damien says; a shame, because Cunningham is tremendous and deserved more than such an under-written role. Having said all that, the actual history involved here is undeniably absorbing and it's a very brave film for a British director to make. The subject matter never ceases to be anything other than enthralling, but the plot unfolds so leisurely that you become almost bored with the characters; there appears to be a lack of immediacy about them, which is essential for characters involved with a subject matter such as this. Barley could have been much better - but still, there are few more noble films that you're likely to see this year.
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