Two brothers are caught on differing sides of the battle for Irish freedom in this politically minded historical drama from veteran British filmmaker Ken Loach. It's 1920, and Damien O'Donovan (Cillian Murphy) has recently graduated from medical school. Damien plans to leave the small village in Ireland where he was born to take a job in London, much to the annoyance of his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney), who is an Irish loyalist and wants to see the British stripped of their rule of his land. While visiting Peggy (Mary Riordan), a longtime friend of the family, Damien and Teddy witness a visit by "Black and Tans," British soldiers who supposedly keep the peace in Ireland; the soldiers turn violent and murder Michaeil (Lawrence Barry), Peggy's grandson, when they discover he only speaks Gaelic. Damien is radicalized by the event, and with Teddy joins the local chapter of the Irish Republican Army, who use violence to drive British troops out of the country. While the IRA is a poor and ill-equipped fighting force, their willingness to give their lives for their cause is taken very seriously by the British, who step up their reprisals against the locals; the Black and Tans even begin directing their violence and torture against women and children, including Damien's girlfriend, Sinead (Orla Fitzgerald). In 1921, Britain attempts to end the violence in Ireland by creating the Irish Free State, a compromise government which will give the Irish greater autonomy while Great Britain still retains final political control of the nation. Teddy sees this as a victory and believes it's an important first step to a truly free Ireland, but Damien sees the IRA's goal as nothing short of complete independence, and the brothers and allies soon become rivals in a battle neither side can win. The Wind That Shakes the Barley received the Golden Palm award as Best Picture at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
by Mark Deming synopsis
IRA (Irish Republican Army)