Banshees of Inisherin – Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan
Directed and written by Martin McDonagh
Length: 114mins

Powerhouses of the acting world, Brendon Gleeson and Colin Farrell are at odds once again, with the lines they deliver coming straight from the mind of writer-director Martin McDonagh. Unlike this trilogy’s previous success with the darkly comic excellence of ‘In Bruges’, the historical Belgium cityscape has been exchanged for fictional Irish isle, Inisherin. A timid land off the west coast of Ireland, home to little more than a few hardened drinking holes, and a port necessary for a quick route off the place. Our story begins when Pádraic (Farrell), discovers that longtime drinking buddy Colm no longer wants to knock back pints of Guinness each day at 2pm, for some unknown reason. The fallout from this simple decision results in one of the most intriguing and engaging narratives which has played out on the big screen this year. 

Although Pádraic might pester Colm constantly throughout the film in search of a reason for his abandonment of their friendship, there’s another question put to Colm on multiple occasions throughout this film. On two separate visits to a priest’s confessional booth, after the everyday sins have been accounted for, the question of, “How is the despair?”, is asked. The film never mentions any recent loss or great tragedy in Colm’s life, and yet this inquiry immediately puts a more sympathetic touch to the tinges of the man’s harshness. Suddenly, his unexpected end to a longstanding friendship takes on a new perspective, and Colm turns from a stoic and unkind man, to a victim of some recurring suffering. McDonagh’s manipulation of language has always been an essential part of what makes his filmmaking so entertaining and engaging, and ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ only reinforces these talents. Characters on that damned island seem only to have to lift a finger to change the lives of those around them, and it’s within these small mistakes that the director digs at the roots of a greater tragedy. Although only asked explicitly to Colm in these moments of confession, there’s a despair which hangs over the occupants of all who inhabit Inisherin, and I imagine most would verbally fight back if asked the question in such a director manner – and yet the harshest of them all seems to be the only one who faces the question head on. 

The island’s landscape is visually stunning, and is often called upon to bookmark a particularly impactful or poignant scene. Characters are beckoned to from across expansive lakes, gaze longingly from clifftops, and stare endlessly at the ocean swirling inside a pint glass. However, these moments of sublime natural beauty imply a story which centres on slow-burning scenes and deep-thinking characters. This may be true for some aspects of the film, but the rest is formed of quick-witted dialogue flying to and fro, amongst scenes ranging from the hilarious to the bizarre. Though the island and its inhabitants may experience great periods of bleakness, there’s a great energy running throughout ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’, owed in large part to its tightly-woven script and impressively talented cast.

Martin McDonagh delivers a film which ranks equal with the strength of his previous collaboration with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. The film begins from a simple premise, but quickly grows into something far greater – a story not to be missed.

Isle of Dogs – Review

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Bob Balaban, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Akira Takayama
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Kunichi Nomura
Length: 101mins

After the ever-lovable success of Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2013, Wes Anderson returned to the stop-motion format back in 2018 with ‘Isle of Dogs’, a tale of one young boy who just wants to get back the pet which was stolen from him – ever-loyal ‘Spots’. In his way, however, lies the vengeful nature of his Uncle, the mayor of the city, who is absolutely more a cat than a dog person.

Wes Anderson’s work has been described time and time again as whimsical, quirky and nostalgic. To say ‘Isle of Dogs’ is any different would be denying the obvious, but that doesn’t lessen the impact of the film in any way. The charm of the handcrafted characters, the endearing dialogue which reads like a storybook, as well as the constant feeling of adventure, with anthropomorphised canines and adolescents piloting planes, contribute equally to a story of action, emotion and humour.

With segments from classic Japanese films such as ‘Seven Samurai’ and ‘Drunken Angel’ layered within the score, composer Alexandre Desplat creates a rhythmic soundscape of ritualistic drums and chants which create a constant feeling of motion and intensity within the narrative. The score is utilised to great effect, whether that be in the exaggeration of a corrupt mayor’s malpractice, or to reflect the regular footsteps of Atari and his companions as they summit peaks along Trash Island.

Wes Anderson has been known as divisive director, with some falling head-over-heels for his overdramatised detail and childlike whimsy, whilst others struggle to see the quirks as anything more than irksome. For me, the first description rings true, and although ‘Isle of Dogs’ may not live up to the grander storyline of ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel,’ or be as visually spectacular as ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, this is a film which I could return to over and over again, and will always hold a special place in my heart.