The trio of Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson strike gold again with the utterly fantastic The Banshees of Inisherin. A sublime film, it knows precisely what it is doing. Quite possibly the filmmaker’s best film yet.
On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, Pádraic (Colin Farrell) is devastated when his buddy, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), suddenly puts an end to their lifelong friendship. With help from his sister and a troubled young islander, Pádraic sets out to repair the damaged relationship by any means necessary.
McDonagh allows his characters space to let them try and work out what is going on in situations that may never have a conclusive answer. That is where The Banshees of Inisherin shines brightest; there is no yearning for an answer, only to either accept things how they are or to see what possibilities there could be out there, even if there is no result. By having his two characters in either position, we get to see almost how hopeless their situation is.
The Banshees of Inisherin feels as if it is as Irish a film as I can remember in tone. Like Colm, you feel can feel the desperation to be somewhere else, off this island and go and be the person you wish you could be, even if it is years or even decades too late. While our land is beautiful, our lives pleasurable, and you know your neighbours like the back of your hand. The stereotypical look of an Irish person is that we are more likely than not light-hearted souls, but really there is a constant sense of hopelessness with some of us; Colm feels it to his core.
Yet, like Pádraic, they can be that stereotype, a person who is just happy to be going and wants no harm to a soul. You chat with friends and family daily about nothing, particularly the type of person to get homesick if they live a few miles away. Life is grand for them as long as they wake up and feel alright. You may sense that someone wants to leave, but you think of it to the back of your head as just a phase. Like Inisherin, Ireland is stuck, an island without direct the right connections, just stuck to cope with its remaining inhabitants, a powder keg of frustration that needs calming but with no way of doing so without a great deal of grief on either side. Is this McDonagh’s best film? Quite possibly, it is certainly the most thoughtful of his career thus far.
While Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are the standouts, this is a faultless cast, each bringing something special here. Kerry Condon shines as Pádraic’s sister, with a thoughtful and sensitive performance that is pitch-perfect. A woman who relates greatly with what is going on with Colm. Siobhán is also trapped on an island she has long outgrown but cannot escape. Barry Keoghan continues a never-ending upward trend of almost stealing films with his performances. His lighter turn counteracts the predominately sad tone McDonagh has set in The Banshees of Inisherin.
What could be just a normal comedy-drama, McDonagh throws in his usual darkness to make sure you know he hasn’t lost that touch to grab you by the neck and shake you. When Pádraic just refuses to get the hint to at least let his former friend have time to himself as he works on his personal issues, Colm gives him an unexpected ultimatum that you never suspect he will carry out until he does. We know McDonagh loves to take the turn down that dark alleyway, and at first thought, by going the route that he does, you fear it may be a misstep, but he and his cast are too good for that he firmly sticks the landing in this compelling film.
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