A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1920s-set drama about the IRA will probably only interest older teens with an interest in history, since its mature subject matter includes dire violence and political discussion. The battle scenes include shootings and grenade explosions; bodies are explicitly injured, broken, and bloodied. Characters are tortured (screaming and beating sounds come from off screen, and fingernails are pulled out on screen) and executed via gunshots to the head and firing squad. A brief, tender, non-explicit love scene is mostly filmed in the shadows. British soldiers burn a house and beat up a young woman and cut off her hair. Brothers and friends have increasingly tense, loud arguments. Lots of cigarette smoking and plenty of swearing ("f--k," "s--te," "arse," etc.).
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What's the story?
Director Ken Loach's THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY tells the story of two Irish brothers caught up in the beginnings of the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Medical student Damien (Cillian Murphy) and his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) watch in horror as British soldiers beat to death a friend who refuses to say his name in English instead of Gaelic. Damien abandons his studies, instead taking the Irish Republican Army's oath of loyalty. The film follows the young men's diligent training, heated discussions, and acts of violence, as well as their capture by the British forces. Damien, the most reluctant warrior, executes two informants; the ordeal leaves him scarred and angry -- he hates what he's become even though he believes in the cause of the Irish Free State. When he and his fellows begin to argue over tactics -- some believe their internal system of government too closely resembles the British one -- the group begins to fragment. The December 1921 signing of the Anglo-Irish peace treaty (which maintained Ireland as a dominion of the British Empire) breaks them apart completely. Teddy aligns himself with Michael Collins and the Loyalists (now "armed and uniformed by the British state") and Damien continues to fight. Ultimately, their split -- like that of their country -- leads to tragedy for both.
Is it any good?
Viewers may well interpret this hard-hitting drama as an indictment of British colonialism -- as well an allegory for the United States' war in Iraq. When Loach accepted the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, he said, "Maybe if we tell the truth about the past, we tell the truth about the present." This hope works in several ways in The Wind that Shakes the Barley. As it tells the story of two Irish brothers caught up in the beginnings of the IRA (Irish Republican Army), the film also shows the many costs of war and oppression for fighters on all sides.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the IRA conflict. How does the film portray its beginnings? Does it provide a different perspective on it? Another good discussion would be to explore the conflict that develops between the O'Donovan brothers. How do their different loyalties take them in different directions? How do their experiences affect their political ideals?
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