The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 49 min.

Release Date: October 21st, 2022 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Martin McDonagh Actors: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Gary Lydon

 


 

I

n the sleepy Irish island village of Inisherin, the townsfolk lead plain lives, many of which consist of vacillating between their homes and the local watering hole. Padraic Suilleabhain (Colin Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) are two such men, regularly sharing a pint at J.J. Devine’s bar every afternoon. One day in April, when Padraic arrives at Colm’s house so that the duo can embark on their traditional trek to the tavern, Colm completely ignores Padraic. Bewildered by his unusual behavior, Padraic confronts Colm at the pub, only to be informed that the latter has no desire to ever converse with the former again. Confusion and disbelief soon give way to grief, anguish, and eventually violence as the two former friends’ increasingly rash actions begin to damage not only their own lives, but those of everyone around them.

The bulk of the film feels as if a microcosm for The Troubles, what with its abrupt delineation between former friends and new enemies, the sudden instances of bloodletting that shock the opposing sides, and the sense that this disagreement might never be truly mendable (the actors, the director, the location, the time period, and the remarks about the Irish Civil War are also difficult to dismiss). There’s even a laugh-out-loud critique of the church. And of special note is the approach from each party, one trying frantically to remain a part of the other’s routines, aiming to bring them back into their previous arrangement, while the other attempts a clean break for the hope of starting fresh in the pursuit of divergent interests. “Maybe he just doesn’t like you no more.”

Of course, it’s also possible this is a purely disconnected, isolated examination of a friendship coming undone – though that would make many of the later incidents increasingly bizarre just for the sake of bizarreness. Either way, the use of a small town with simple people engaging in everyday activities – bordering on utter dullness – crafts a superb character study that delves into the striking, far-reaching impact of a sudden ostracization. Attitudes and behaviors deteriorate under the strain of a drastic departure from expected customs, sometimes hysterically through the playful repetition and comical observations of writer/director Martin McDonagh’s script (his humor is exceptional, even in this less than universal setting) – and, on occasion, tragically, when bitter denial takes hold. The initial fallout is approached like a mystery, slowly but carefully building up the central roles with the potency of relatable interactions, commenting on mortality, the passing of time, and leaving a legacy. But later ebbs of their association turn bleak, hinting at the macabre nature of the titular spirit of Irish folklore.

“What’s the matter with everybody?” Relationships here are crucial; human connections are essential in the environs of a remote island where gossip travels fast and secrets never last. In the context of the lead twosome, their friendship is the meaning of life itself; it poses the most significance for them amid vastly insignificant existences. Thanks to a tremendous performance from Farrell, whose emotions are plentiful even with lengthy sequences of wordlessness (or small talk or drunken impudence), the start of the picture is awash with moving observations, demonstrating that their friendship is enough to fuel the entire story (a supporting role from Barry Keoghan is also spectacular). Unfortunately, some of the message will be lost on viewers when certain demonstrations grow overly abrasive or conspicuously cinematic (and perhaps inscrutable in their weirdness), revealing the unsatisfactory qualities of over-the-top desperation and despair. And even more of it will be lost on viewers unfamiliar with historical parallels, if McDonagh indeed intended his tale to replicate the psychological woes of longstanding ethnonationalist conflict. “Some things there’s no movin’ on from.”

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10