The Banshees of Inisherin | Review

Oh man, what a film. Now I know I am particularly late to the party but considering it just got nominated for several Oscars, and I seem to be unable to shut up about it, I think its still apt I give it the time of day. The Banshees of Inisherin was released in October 2022 and is now available on Disney +. It’s been nominated for 9 Oscars, 10 Bafta’s, 5 Screen Actors Guild Awards and has won several awards so far, including the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy – Colin Farrell, and Best Screenplay – Motion Picture – Martin McDonagh.

You may wonder why I have begun by listing the awards and nomination this film has, well from the trailer I watched several months ago, I was quite surprised. It seemed dark, depressing and quite twisted. Not once, did I think it would be classed as a comedy. And boy was I wrong on all accounts.

‘On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, Pádraic is devastated when his buddy Colm suddenly puts an end to their lifelong friendship. With help from his sister and a troubled young islander, Pádraic sets out to repair the damaged relationship by any means necessary. However, as Colm’s resolve only strengthens, he soon delivers an ultimatum that leads to shocking consequences.’

Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan, this cast alone would class it as a fan favourite. You’re putting top class actors in the same space, in a country they love, with a fantastic narrative. In that respect, it was a recipe for success. But as Colin Farrell said in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, he was never sure of his own capabilities, after Alexander (2004) made him rethink if he ever could reclaim his love and passion for acting. Well, I hope if anything could, it would be this.

I watched the Banshees of Inisherin purely on a whim, and that’s no disrespect to the film, its just not something I expected to love. Nevertheless, I was amazed by the humour which coursed through the veins of this film, and how it dealt with such universal themes like loneliness in such an interesting way. For a start, the film is visually very impressive. The opening shot of sprawling Irish fields set the tone very well. You get a sense from the start at how isolated these villagers are and thus, its not a surprise when Pádraic (Farrell) is annoyed when his friend Colm (Gleeson) leaves him for no apparent reason. It’s this persistent lack of reasoning for all of Colm’s actions, that narratively brings nuance to this film. Nothing, ever, makes sense.

You’ve got a donkey as a pet, grown men who have a very rigid routine and who do the same thing repetitively, Dominic Keaney (played by Keoghan) is a social outcast whose actions bring a lot of comedic relief to serious moments, and a brother and sister who stay together and sleep in the same room. In many ways, nothing about this lifestyle is normal. But for this, it is absolutely perfect.

If we’re going to get into character, I need to start with Pádraic whose world revolves around Colm. Even though the viewer never gets to see their relationship prior to when it goes awry, you’re very aware from his reception to Colm’s behaviour, that this is groundbreaking. Farell brings this inexplicable suaveness to Pádric, who gets calmly and persistently irritated by his friends actions. The more this builds, the more his comedic tendencies become irresistible. Farrell and Gleeson play off each other in exchanges that make you laugh out loud, which for a film that’s tone is somewhat unexpected, it is a feast for the senses.

The set up of the shots, only mirror Pádraic’s distance from his friend, as he constantly views Colm through windows and the brick and mortar which puts a substantial distance between the two. It says what words couldn’t, that Pádraic is unable to impenetrate both the mental and physical walls Colm has put up.

Furthering the ridiculous nature of the film is the lengths both Pádraic and Colm go to, to make the other understand where they are at with their friendship. Of course, Colm goes to the extreme by cutting off his fingers when Pádraic won’t stop bugging Colm, which leads to catastrophic consequences when Pádraic’s beloved donkey dies. Thus, Pádraic decides to burn Colm and his home down in response to killing the one thing he had left. These of course, are both very extreme actions for such a petty fight. Which only strengthens the comedic undertone of the film.

That’s what I appreciate so much about this, the comedy comes from actions and what is, to some extent, quite conceivable outcomes for such an isolated place. It’s not making so much of an effort with its comedy because its so believable as a drama.

Colm and Pádraic both represent the ever-present civil war that exists on the mainland in that their own anger and persistence eats away at themselves and causes much more damage than what is necessary. Could Martin McDonagh be implying that civil war is just a petty excuse for lack of communication and understanding. There are many ways to read this film, and in that respect, I think we can all agree the awards do in fact, come as no surprise.

Lastly, the ending of the film, can be classed as being just as ridiculous as the rest of the film. Colm survives the fire and there is no resolution to their fight. No one gets any satisfaction. Not Pádraic. Not Colm. And definitely not the viewer. You’re all left wondering, really, what was the point.

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