The Banshees of Inisherin-2022
Director Martin McDonagh
Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon
Scott’s Review #1,348
Reviewed March 2, 2023
Martin McDonagh, who directs The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), is known for films like In Bruges (2008) and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017). His films usually include dark humor stories of humanity and unpleasantness and require some afterthought to ruminate about the characters’ true nature.
This film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson who reunite from their collaboration in In Bruges for another turn playing men dealing with depression and other feelings of loneliness and friendship.
McDonagh is British/Irish so the period and surroundings likely resonate well with him. The gorgeous islands off coastal Ireland are used and key to the story and counterbalance the troubles and tribulations of the characters.
Pádraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson), are lifelong friends and inhabitants of an island off of mainland Ireland. They find themselves embroiled in a feud after Colm one day announces he is ending their friendship. This confuses Pádraic who vows to mend the relationship at all costs.
Their reunion is thwarted by severed fingers, a fire, and the mysterious death of Pádraic’s beloved pet donkey, Jenny.
Mixed into the events are Pádraic’s sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and troubled young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan), who have their problems to face.
The Banshees of Inisherin is slow-paced and cerebral and many questions will be pondered but left unanswered. This will tick off those viewers who prefer a clear conclusion to the characters’ lives.
But, this is a key part of the beauty of the film. Sure, I might have liked one big no-holds-barred argument scene between Pádraic and Colm or more closure in Dominic’s or Siobhán’s stories. Instead, McDonagh challenges the audience to feel perplexed or unsure and use their interpretations.
For example, I wonder if Dominic was being sexually abused by his policeman father who has a penchant for sitting naked in the living room chair and masturbating.
Or, what does Siobhán leave the island for and will she ever return?
On a separate note, I wonder if McDonagh was influenced by the epic 1970 gem Ryan’s Daughter, directed by David Lean. The flowing Irish landscapes and unpleasant, embittered townspeople have key similarities.
The winning formula is ambiguity. The audience is served terrific acting all around, particularly amongst the four principals (Farrell, Gleeson, Condon, and Keoghan) all of whom were awarded Academy Award nominations.
Each provides subdued performances dripping with contained emotion and complexities buried beneath the surface.
Audiences can draw their conclusions but my takeaways were loneliness, longing for new adventures, depression, and begrudgingly accepting meager existence amid the most lavish countryside one can find.
The 1920s Irish Civil War is the backdrop though those events are not central to the plot.
Since Colm’s desire to create music is a central part of the story the accompanying music is crucial to the film. The use of fiddles is incorporated rather than traditional Irish music except in the sprinkling of pub scenes.
A hearty round of applause is due to McDonagh and company for crafting and performing a thinking man’s film. The comic bits are not syrupy but tragic in their honesty and cadence.
The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) separate cinematic thinkers from passive viewers with a quiet story about the friendship between two men and the layers that exist beneath the surface.
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Martin McDonagh, Best Actor-Colin Farrell, Best Supporting Actor-Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan, Best Supporting Actress-Kerry Condon, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score