Two lifelong friends find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, with alarming consequences for both of them.
Martin McDonagh reunites with his ‘In Bruges’ stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in his latest movie, ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’, a ‘break-up’ movie of a kind we don’t often see on screen. The break-up at the heart of this movie involves a friendship and not a romantic relationship, as folk musician Colm (Gleeson) decides he no longer wants to spend his time with Pádraic (Farrell), much to his bemusement. His rationale is that Pádraic is dull and in the time he has left on this earth, he’d rather focus on his music and on spending time with interesting people, but that doesn’t reckon with how hurt Pádraic feels at this decision and the movie focuses on how both men come to terms with this decision, in increasingly darker ways.
McDonagh is well known for his dark, satirical screenplays, with ‘In Bruges’ and ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ both garnering lots of critical acclaim, but he is also a renowned playwright and ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ (more than the aforementioned films) has all the hallmarks of the sharp writing and dialogue of an experienced playwright. It is set during the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s on the island of Inisherin (fictional, but filmed and based heavily on Inishmore in the Aran Islands just off the coast of Galway), a remote island with a small community who are largely isolated from the events of the war besides hearing the sound of explosions and gunshots from the mainland. That remoteness feeds through every element of the story – there is one pub, one shop and minimal roads, so it isn’t as if Colm and Pádraic can avoid each other, or find other people to spend time with.
Gleeson and Farrell are a wonderful double act, which we knew already, and both are on absolutely superb form here. Gleeson, the belligerent musician, and Farrell, the increasingly exasperated and frustrated man who struggles to come to terms with something as existentional as being told you’re inherently boring. The core cast is rounded out by Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s spinster sister Siobhán, and the always impressive Barry Keoghan as the local misfit Dominic, who becomes Pádraic’s substitute for Colm. As we’ve come to expect from McDonagh, this is an incredibly funny movie, but funny in a natural, relatable way (i.e. not a contrived ‘comedy’ movie way), with superb dialogue that teases out the themes of male loneliness and the manifestation of anger that the movie wants to explore. Don’t be fooled by the trailers though, there is a real heart of darkness here and McDonagh leans deeply into the more visceral, darker impulses of human nature as the movie progresses and it turns into something altogether more profound and thoughtful.
I’m not quite as blown away by ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ as the general critical community has been, but it’d be fair to say Martin McDonagh has set such a high bar for himself that even not quite reaching that top tier for me still makes for a deeply compelling and thought provoking movie. It’s a shame he generally takes five years between movies, but when the quality of output is as high as this, then perhaps that is a good thing.
Directed By: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Pat Shortt and Jon Kenny