You would be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks Ken Loach's films are simply OK, or all right, or not so bad. Loach divides opinion. ``The Wind That Shakes the Barley,'' which won the top prize -- the Palme D'Or -- at the Cannes Film Festival last month isn't going to change that fact. The film is, at least in part, a damning indictment of the British in Ireland in the years leading up to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.
That it doesn't pretend to be even-handed is what has caused all the fuss, with certain British commentators damning it without having seen it. It's also beautifully shot, strikingly acted and has a driving storyline that grips until the end. While Loach may be highly politicized, he is no avant- gardist. The story is conventional in form and focuses on two brothers, Damien and Teddy (Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney). Damien has just qualified as a doctor and is about to leave for England, where he has a post at a London hospital. Teddy is already active as a member of the nascent IRA.
When Damien visits the farm of friends to say his goodbyes, he witnesses the murder of a man he has grown up with by the ``Black and Tans,'' the brutal police recruits from the British mainland. This is the moment of Damien's politicization. He stays in Ireland and joins Teddy in training as an insurgent.
Iain Millar's review in full is published in the US by BLOOMBERG and can be read here.