REVIEW: The Banshees of Inisherin

November 16th, 2022 8:24 AM

By Dylan Mangan

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How far would you go just to ignore someone?

Martin McDonagh asks the question, and many others, in his latest film The Banshees of Inisherin.

Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Pádraic (Colin Farrell) have been friends for life. Every afternoon, Pádraic calls on Colm to go do the only thing worth doing in 1920s Irish island life - drink some pints.

It’s a ritual long treasured and long performed - until now.

One day, Colm decides that he is bored of Pádraic, and tells him to never speak to him again - or there will be consequences. ‘You didn’t do anything,’ Colm says. ‘I just don’t like you no more.’

Pádraic is at a loss as to why his best friend wouldn’t want to have anything to do with him and, ignoring Colm’s requests for peace, decides that the only way to find out is to ask, repeatedly.

Colm is stubborn, overly so - the type who would cut off his nose to spite his face. He threatens Pádraic with the promise that every time Pádraic talks to him, he will cut off his own finger.

Reuniting 14 years after the hugely popular In Bruges, the combination of Gleeson and Farrell with McDonagh's typically pared-back script makes for great viewing.

Colin Farrell gives a wonderfully expressive performance, his sad eyes framed by some of the best eyebrows seen on screen. His portrayal of Pádraic - a village idiot character - could have been too heavy handed but he plays the part perfectly, recognising the need for subtlety in a film so definite with its words.

As with many McDonagh films, what starts out as comedy ends with if not tragedy then at least some reflection, and there is plenty to be found here.

Colm is obsessed with his legacy. He spends his newfound time writing and perfecting a new song. He disfigures himself to enhance the stories which are bound to be told about him. He teaches his song to younger musicians to spread the music far and wide.

Pádraic only really cares about the here and now. He doesn’t ask life too many questions and doesn’t expect too many answers. He's always thought the fact that he is nice is a good thing.

Colm's behaviour towards him makes him consider otherwise.

The audience are caught in the middle of these battling ideals along with two of the standout members of the cast - Pádraic's sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and Dominic (Barry Keoghan), the only islander lower on the food chain than the main character Pádraic himself.

Their supporting roles both elevate the film.

Siobhán is the sister who only stays on the island to look after her brother - at least for as long as she can. She acts as the voice of reason among increasingly ridiculous situations.

Dominic is the young man who brings perhaps the most tragedy and comedy to this tragicomic tale.

There is a sadness in him, hidden beneath shock comments and funny outbursts. Pádraic relies on him when abandoned by Colm, but treats him just as poorly as anyone else.

On the surface The Banshees of Inisherin is a fun story of stubborn men, their stubborn ways and how they affect those around them.

Underneath it all, McDonagh is asking questions about how we are perceived once we die, and if that even matters at all.

The answers? For McDonagh, at least, they seem to lie somewhere in the middle.

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