Review: The Banshees of Inisherin
Matthew Bowden, Screen Editor, shows his deep love for The Banshees of Inisherin: a triumphant reunion for Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson .
The Banshees of Inisherin sees the holy trinity of Irish cinema (Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) return to our screens, 14 years after the triumph that was McDonagh’s black comedy In Bruges, about a pair of bumbling assassins who, after a botched hit, are forced to lay low in, you guessed it, Bruges. After two viewings of this delightful reunion, it’s fair to say it was more than worth the wait.
The film has a deceptively simple entry point; good-hearted but dim (yes he is) Padraic, played by Farrell, has fallen out of favour with his former best bud Colm (Gleeson) – seemingly over nothing at all. Colm admits as much to Padraic, saying that he hasn’t done or said anything in particular to him, but that “I just don’t like you no more”. In the face of this harsh revelation, Padraic drifts bewilderedly along, trying desperately to make sense of the situation by talking it over with his sister (Kerry Condon) and the local village idiot Dominic (Barry Keoghan), but without possessing enough brain cells to actually leave Colm alone. Finally, he is delivered a gruesome ultimatum: if Colm gets bothered by Padraic again, he will cut one finger off his left hand with a pair of sheep shears.
Just like In Bruges, McDonagh proves his mastery again when it comes to depicting tragicomic male sadness that verges on existential crisis. Colm reveals that his motivation behind severing ties with Padraic is more of an internal issue – he feels that he has a rapidly approaching clock on the rest of his life and would prefer to see out his days productively, composing music and enjoying the peace of his own thoughts, rather than have his ear chewed off by “aimless chattin”. Yet, Colm’s ignorance here is that it is this chatter that is the backbone of village life – confirmed by a hilarious scene in the post office where Padraic gets chastised for his “shite news”. Isolation and seclusion sees the degeneration of both main characters through miscommunication, and the film’s simple repeated focus on niceness hammers home the fact that it doesn’t take a whole lot to prevent conflicts escalating beyond reasonable control.
McDonagh proves his mastery again when it comes to depicting tragicomic male sadness that verges on existential crisis
I’ve quoted the film a few times, and it is unquestionably one of the best scripts I’ve encountered this year. Even in moments of pretty intense darkness, McDonagh finds some levity and humour, and on top of the regular laughs and witty one-liners, there is a standout scene inside a confessional booth (a regular conceptual motif for McDonagh) that ends up with a priest shouting profanities to one of his congregation members. Worth the price of admission alone.
Farrell and Gleeson’s reliably acerbic chemistry shines through again but it is the supporting performances that really steal the show for me. Kerry Condon is outstanding as Padraic’s melancholic but sharp-tongued sister Siobhan, who knows there is more out there than the bitter gossiping and feuds of Inisherin, but stays mainly out of support for her brother. Barry Keoghan continues to assert himself as one of the most promising actors of his generation, similarly balancing bellyaching quips with a sorrowful vulnerability – amongst the acts of male-on-male violence that occur, his arc feels the most tragic.
The title doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, but The Banshees of Inisherin is an extremely funny and thought-provoking story of old-school toxic masculinity. Considering its unerring critical acclaim, it appears an early frontrunner for Oscars glory – fingers crossed!