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The Wind That Shakes The Barley Review

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Ireland, 1919. Workers are uniting to face the British squads being shipped in to block the country’s bid for independence. Inspired by his brother Teddy (Delaney), Damien (Murphy) joins the cause too, but when Teddy accepts a compromise agreement with th

★★★★★

Ken Loach’s last two films, Sweet Sixteen and Ae Fond Kiss..., expertly used everyday issues as a means to explore character. With The Wind That Shakes The Barley, however, it seems the subject this time — the early IRA — is too big for him to achieve the harmony between director, writer and cast that informs his best work.

The conceit of two brothers, one passionate about Irish independence from the get-go, the other won round, is perhaps too explicit a metaphor for a divided country, especially as their ideologies diverge. And it’s this sense of abstraction that makes it hard to invest in the film’s last act, which wavers between drama, historical reconstruction and the Cain-and-Abel-style conflict that’s about to unfold.

Performances are excellent, and Cillian Murphy continues to surprise. But somehow there’s no sense of behind-the-scenes spontaneity, the touches that make Loach’s social realism so very social and very real.

A bold attempt to convey a complex situation that captures the anger and tensions of early-20th century Ireland, but falls strangely short on human drama.

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