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The Banshees of Inisherin

Director Martin McDonagh
Country Ireland/UK/USA
Year 2022
Rating 14A
Running Time 106
Trailer Link

From The Booth

If you’ve ever been dumped by a close friend, then perhaps you’ll understand the broken hearted quandary in which that Pádraic finds himself  in writer/director Martin McDonagh’s beautifully made, oddball tragicomedy The Banshees of Inisherin.

The cheerful Pádraic (Colin Farrell) is stunned when his life-long friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) tells him firmly that he doesn’t like him anymore and doesn’t want to see or talk to him.

This will be tricky.

They live in a rural area on Inisherin, a raw and rugged fictional island just off the coast of Ireland, with a population in the hundreds.  It is both isolated, and close enough to the mainland that they can often hear the sound of gunshots from the Irish Civil War.

It’s 1923, and the social life of the residents revolves around a small local pub, where everyone knows everyone else’s business. The two former friends have for years been meeting for a pint every day at 2 p.m. It’s part of the routine, in a place where life itself is placidly routine, despite being shouting distance from turmoil. So, what caused this change in Colm? There was no triggering incident, no fight, no insult. Pádraic is stricken, can’t make heads nor tails of this, and hopes it’s a mood that will pass. But, nope. The next day Colm is as resolute in his decision to terminate the friendship, as he was when he made the announcement. Pádriac asks for a reason, and gets one. But he’s still confused.

The mysterious rift between two friends is a jarring event in a community small enough that people have no choice but to get along. Pádraic lives with his fierce sister, Siobhán, (Kerry Condon) in their family’s stone cottage. Siobhán goes to bat for him with Colm.  Others in the community do likewise, including Domenic (Barry Keoghan), the dim son of the local policeman with secrets of his own.

Clashes between friends and colleagues, and odd situations that get odder as tensions are forced to the surface - these are part of the world that filmmaker McDonagh has explored in his films, like the much lauded Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and In Bruges (which also co-starred Farrell and Gleeson). He has a knack for creating great characters whose outward behaviour is bold, outrageous, or off-putting. He wraps them in stories that are dark and walk the line between mordant comedy and tragedy, but also manage to be haunting and empathetic. And that’s true of The Banshees of Inisherin. Pádraic’s reaction to Colm’s rejection, the refusal to yield to his friend’s wishes, (which suggests a shaky sense of self), causes ripples that upend social norms, expose secrets and cause some to reconsider the routine life that Pádraic seems to treasure.

The acting is superb. If you are a fan of great performances, then this must be on your radar. Farrell won Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his portrayal of Pádraic. Gleeson is at his stormy best. Performances by Kerry Condon sister, and Barry Keoghan should be awards bait.

The Irish have struggled to find peace on a road historically paved with war. The little village in The Banshees of Inisherin seems a microcosm of the complexity of maintaining that peace, even among ostensible friends.

- Karen Gordon, Original Cin