Director: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan
Run Time: 114 mins
The Banshees of Inisherin is the latest by writer-director Martin McDonagh, whose three film track record is untarnished so far. Both In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths are melancholic masterpieces, up there with some of my favourites from the last decade and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is also a very fine piece and attracted awards attention.
Reuniting In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, McDonagh’s latest is set on the fictional island of Inisherin, off the coast of Ireland in 1923, set during the Civil War. Farrell plays Pádraic Súilleabháin, who is quite content living with his sister Siobhan and his animals in a cosy house. Gleeson plays Colm Doherty, a more contemplative individual who finds peace in writing new music and poetry. Despite their obvious personality differences, we learn that the two of them have enjoyed an inseparable friendship over the years. When Pádraic goes to Colm’s house to invite him out to the pub, which we’re led to believe is an everyday occurrence, Colm ignores Pádraic’s knock. Pádraic, not thinking anything is wrong, heads to the pub and when Colm enters, he bluntly informs Pádraic he doesn’t like him and doesn’t wish to speak with him anymore and the narrative escalates from there.
The Banshees of Inisherin is another excellent McDonagh feature. The script is full of the director’s signature black, dry humour and the first half of the film is full of comedic moments. The film gets progressively grimmer and McDonagh deftly balances the initial laughs with the heavier subject matter and tone. There’s a lot of substance to the story, McDonagh being both critical and drawing parallels of the events on-screen with the Civil War, infused with a Shakespearean quality.
Both Farrell and Gleeson turn in excellent performances. 2022 has proven a hat-trick for Farrell with brilliant performances also in The Batman and Thirteen Lives. He’s saved the best for last though as Pádraic, described by the other islanders as nice but dull. The ruminative transformation he undertakes through the course of the film is brilliantly delivered. Gleeson’s character doesn’t have quite as much to say but he turns in another searing performance, expressing more through his body language and actions but he also gets some excellent lines.
It’s not just the central duo who make an impression. McDonagh constructs a memorable and unique community, with each character having their quirks. Kerry Condon is brilliant as Siobhan, showing compassion to others and acting as an intermediary between Pádraic and Colm, but she also has her own issues. Barry Keoghan plays the dim and tormented Billy, who just wants a companion to navigate life with and escape the clutches of his pig-headed policeman father (Gary Lydon). The landlord of the pub, Jonjo (Pat Shortt) is another highlight, acting as an intermediary between Pádraic and Colm. The unnamed priest (David Pearse) gets some cracking lines too and old woman plays a Shakespearean witch like character.
McDonagh’s regular composer Carter Burwell helms the score and it’s very fitting and memorable, resorting to a variation of themes that are developed as the film progresses. The film is gorgeously shot by Ben Davis, who beautifully captures the Irish landscape and vistas, as well as the pets and animals of the island and their innocence.
The Banshees of Inisherin is another knockout from McDonagh. Having seen the film twice, it gets better on a rewatch as you start to pick out the smaller minutatie and the foreboding signs of the narrative direction the film is heading in. It’s definitely McDonagh’s grimmest watch to date and the film leaves you stone-cold in its closing moments with characters that have lost their way. The film isn’t quite perfect though – it doesn’t seem to have quite as much substance as McDonagh’s first two films and the film’s pacing sags briefly just before it enters its final act. Still, The Banshees of Inisherinis one of the best films of the year and deservedly is likely to receive awards attention later in the year.