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.

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