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The Wind That Shakes the Barley



IRA drama is thoughtful, smart -- and bloody.
  • Review Date: September 4, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2007
  • Running Time: 127 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Difficult situations bring about difficult decisions: Violent acts, betrayals, and commitments come with terrible costs.


Weapons include guns, knives, grenades, and pliers (for pulling out fingernails); battle scenes show injuries and bloody bodies; the films IRA heroes are shot at, tortured, and imprisoned by British soldiers -- their acts of vengeance, however righteous, never lead to victory, as they suffer emotionally afterward and the British maintain dominion.


Brief sex scene between the film's only couple is shot in shadows and accompanied by romantic piano.


Lots of angry language, including more than 40 uses of "f--k," plus "s--t" and "s--te," "ass," "damn," "bastard," "bitch," and "whore."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Young men smoke cigarettes repeatedly; in bar scenes and during political meetings, characters drink liquor and ale.

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.).

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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 15, 2007
DVD release date:September 4, 2007
Cast:Cillian Murphy, Liam Cunningham, Padraic Delaney
Director:Ken Loach
Studio:IFC Entertainment
Run time:127 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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Teen, 15 years old Written byCiaraC March 18, 2011
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great role models
Adult Written byluckymac219 March 9, 2011

A very violent film, but in a historical context

The movie opens with the off-camera murder of a young man by British soldiers, and the violence continues from there. This isn't, however, violence for the sake of being violent. It's an integral part of the storyline and portrays a very real part of life during the Irish War of Independence. Because of its historical context, it's really up to the parent to decide if this movie is suitable for their child. I would, however, reserve it for older kids.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Parent of a 6, 10, and 14 year old Written bymoderatelymodernmom March 13, 2009

Gutwrenching story

I watched this movie with my husband and son - 12. We were all deeply moved and a year later my son is still talking about it. He loves history and because our family comes from Ireland he was very interested. This movie is graphic and intense, but it isn't violence for entertainment, it is part of the story and necessary - that makes all the difference in my opinion.


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