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4.4 out of 5 stars230
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 19 October 2013
It's a sad, grim film which shows a dark chapter in British history, which has been systematically hidden from British citizens. i bought this DVD after a holiday in Dublin and a tour round Kilmainham Gaol which made me realise that British rule in Ireland had been far, far more brutal than I had ever realised, which started me reading up on the 1916 - 1923 period. This film shows very harshly British brutality during the Irish War of Independence and the conflicts within the Irish nationalist side which led to the Irish Civil War. It's set in beautiful, haunting, misty Irish landscape, but it's hard to appreciate the latter because of the grim, terrible story taking place.
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on 25 June 2007
Some reviewers seem to have missed the point. Ken Loach doesn't make Hollywood-style "history for popcorn-munchers" entertainment. He assumes a basic knowledge of the period in question, and then explores specific political questions. If anyone saw "Land and Freedom" before "Barley", they would not be at all suprised that Loach chose to focus on the tensions/contradictions between the fight for self-determination on the one hand, and the kind of state those fighters were aiming for. This scenario is expressed by the relationship between Damian (an advocate of James Connolly's Marxist vision of a workers' republic) and his brother, who (for lack of a broader political vision) sees himself as more of a realist, dealing with the "here and now". It is no accident that the relationships between Damian/Rory and Damian/Sinead are given such prominence. Some reviewers have criticised the acting: Loach famously encourages improvisation, and often uses "imperfect" takes in his final cut, precisely in order to convey the message that history is not all heroic poses and sweeping soundtracks. The same goes for the action scenes: anyone with experience of armed conflict knows that military engagements can very often be confused, random and inconsequential (i.e. not always like Peter O'Toole charging forward on his camel). All in all, I found the film to be intelligent, insightful, very moving, and therefore an excellent piece of cinema.
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on 17 August 2007
Winner of the Palme D'or in 2006 at Cannes, "Barley" is Ken Loach's biggest box office success so far. As far as I know, this is the first Irish film winning the award. When it comes to filmmaking, Loach has a keen sense of realism, naturalism and social awareness. All these elements mix with his strong instinct for time and place, and the result: subtle and intense pictures letting the volatility, misery and pain arise naturally from the harrowing and overwhelming situations.

"Barley" is a beautiful film, an epitome of sharp & powerful docu-drama providing valuable background information especially for those who do not any snippet of idea about the happenings in early 1920s Ireland - Irish people's struggle for independence and origins of the IRA.

Some viewers claim that Loach, due to his radical political stance, distorts historical facts and shows British "Black and Tans" as a stereotypical, bloodthirsty thugs. I don't want to participate in the polemics of whether the film portrays the incidents truly or not - atrocities committed by British forces against civilians, fellow revolutionary's division into factions before Anglo-Irish Treaty and their ideological disputes giving rise to bloody Irish Civil War. This is historian's job.

The truth is that Loach's melodramatic attempt of using two Irish brothers who are at odds with one another to stir up drama proves to be a good formula here. This greatly adds to the watchability of movie. It shows the dark side of war, people's ordeal and how clash of political principles as well as rupture of human values and bonds pit brother against brother.

Lastly, visually the movie is a feast to eyes - from idyllic backdrops of Irish countryside to gloomy dankness of a prison cell, every scene is shot beautifully. For those who like docu-dramas and Ken Loach type of social realism, "Barley" is a must-see.
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on 1 March 2008
This movie's central story is of two brothers on diverging political paths. Ken Loach presents us with a snap shot of the early days of the Irish freedom struggle in 1920 which casts forward the suggestion that any compromise with Britain is a betrayal.

As the British mercineries `Black and Tans' torture and murder their way through the Irish countryside two brothers (Cillian Murphy P.Delaney) are forced to join the IRA reluctantly.

As the story goes on Loach expertly shows us both sides of the conflict. He suggests that the British army were murderous in Ireland due to the 4 years of hell they suffered during WW1.
He also shows us the motives of the Irish IRA volunteers: "I studied Medicine for 5 years," says Cillian Murphy who puts aside dreams of becoming a doctor to fight for the cause. "Then I shoot a man; I hope that what we're fighting for is worth it."

This is Loach back to his Land and Freedom best; he is not the anti-Brit that some critics maintained. He is just playing his own brand of the patriot game.Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 21 November 2007
The Wind That Shakes The Barley is an interesting look at the early days of the IRA. Ken Loach's realistic style is perfect for an examination of this brutal conflict and the violence always seems terrifyingly real. The story of Damien and his family almost seems incidental at times but is ultimately very moving.
It is a true shame that movies like this have to be made out with the mainstream as they so often are so much more dramatic than the average Hollywood blockbuster.
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on 26 August 2006
i searched for weeks to find a cinema to see this movie , and finally did so half expecting to be disappointed , but disappointed i certainly was not . seeing as most of the actors are so called unknowns i was extremely impressed with the quality of acting and with the fluid dialoques within the movie , and expect to see many of these actors again .i think this movie will as it did for me bring about a thirst for many people to find out a bit more about the subject matter , and although i am british i was willing to view the movie with a more open mind seeing as it is more sympathetic with the republican cause , but in fairness it showed how in many cases heavy handed military and police actions were the cause for many young men joining as recruits for the i.r.a. and i felt that it did not try to preach any one particular cause but more so tried to show how in many cases in history the wrong actions and decisions at the wrong times can be more akin to putting petrol on an open fire , and help feed the problem and to escalate in such a way that eventually it will explode . along with michael collins this movie deals with a very important and powerful part of irish and british history which seldom gets spoken about let alone have movies made about it .
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on 24 September 2006
I watched this with three members of my family (we are from Derry) and my sister in law who is English. It was very difficult to find local cinemas showing the film in the part of England that I live and finally saw it in Windemere. Although the cinema was barely half full, it was clear that the film touched many who watched it; as we left, the young girl working there was in tears. The response from my sister in law was along the lines that she never knew what it was like - history books in England only giving their side of the story. From the very beginning, the audience is gripped - not only because of the story, but also because of the fact that it lacks any of the Hollywood "polish" and yet surpasses many of them. The actors are wonderful and there is a certain "grittiness" in the shooting of the film which lends itself to the overall effect. This is a must see film!
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on 7 December 2012
Putting politics to one side, this makes for a fantastic drama that at times makes you realise how good film can be - a rare and to be treasured feeling. I confess I'm no expert on the complex political turmoil of the time, but this did not stop me being completely engrossed in this film.

Others have criticised the acting, but I think it is first rate. I've seen Cillian Murphy in a few films (Sunshine, Shallow Grave and Inception), but he is outstanding in this film, as are all the other actors.

It seems for some people that this film is too close to home, despite the period it is set in more than 90 years ago. For me, I don't think it glorifies the IRA, just like it doesn't vilify the whole of England - how can it when it shows the young Catholic farmer being killed by his own villagers because he was forced to report to the authorities details of the uprising?

Back to the film, the landscape, social setting, dialogue and sheer unflinching manner in which Loach approaches the subject matter was a real joy.
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on 25 July 2007
I'm dissapointed to note a number of reviewers complain about a one sided view of this part of Irelands troubled history. I am an Irishman who has lived in England for many years, my wife is English and my children were born here. I am not an "English Hater"- like some people who can't seem to look beyond the past particularly it seems Americans of Irish descent.
This film is gritty and has many accurate references to the period, Loach however does tend to put a biased flavour on things.

I agree that the Black and Tans were brutal and committed many attrocities (These are accurately recorded in numerous documents) they were known to have sacked entire towns, women raped, men shot, property stolen. But they were not soldiers, they were Police auxilaries. Many years ago I met several old soldiers who had served in Ireland in the period. They all despised the black and tans, The Black and Tans were paid much more than the ordinary troops, they were unruly and poorly led.

There are many reported occasions when British regular troops behaved very well in Ireland and likewise there were numerous reports of IRA units disarming British troops and allowing them to retreat unharmed.

The simplistic way in which Loach deals with the treaty and the civil war that followed irritated me greatly. Perhaps Mr Loach should remember that the Irish people voted overwhemingly in favour of the treaty and the free state. That is democracy. Only a minority wanted a Marxist Ireland and thank god they didn't get it.

If Collins had held out for a Republic the British would have reinforced their troops in Ireland and the IRA would have been wiped out. The North was not willingly given up, but at that time there was no chance of any freedom for any in Ireland unless it was. Historical reports of the time show how numerous regiments in Ulster, recruited from Loyalist areas and based in the province, were prepared to mutiny if the British gave up what they saw as a part of Britain. The bloodshed would have been unimaginable and as always it would have been the people who would have suffered.

A good film in other respects, good acting and locations, realistic in many ways. What a shame there couldn't have been a little more impartiality on occasion.

I don't blame my English neighbours for what the British government of the past did to my country. They don't blame me for the evil crimes of the Provisional IRA or their kind. I think sometimes we need to look forward more and back less.

Slan
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on 21 August 2006
I watched this film in Galway recently and found it profoundly moving. Not only has all the events in the film been based on recorded accounts of the time, the acting, screenplay and direction is flawless. The film goes a long way to explain the powerful republican sentiments which still echo today in that part of Ireland. As regards the situation in the north during that time, there were very few, if not any republicans aware of the complex situation in the north - it wouldn't have been realistic for Ken Loach to add such a modern perspective. It was interesting to see this director convey the views of anti-treaty IRA as opposed to Neil Jordan's Michael Collins which almost beatified Collins. Well worth seeing.
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