The Banshees of Inisherin

It has always been said that the most straightforward ideas are the most effective. While some films will have complicated plots with multiple sub-plots, sometimes a brief tale is all it needs to create a masterpiece. That is precisely what The Banshees of Inisherin is. For example, the new film from writer and director Martin McDonagh, the man who gave us In Bruges and Three Billboards in Epping, Missouri, has produced a film that is not only rich in its look and with excellent performances from a very skilled cast, he has delivered one of the delights of the year. Yet, the plot is about two friends, one who doesn’t like the other.

On a remote island on the coast of Ireland during the Civil War, gentle farmer Pádraic finds out that his drinking partner and friend, Colm, don’t like him anymore. No explanation, no reasoning, just a sudden announcement that they can no longer be friends. Pádraic, shocked at the news, is devasted, fearing he has said or done something. Yet Colm has decided that life is too short for trivialities and wants to explore art and his beloved music, and pointless conversations are no longer the things he needs. Yet Pádraic is persistent in getting his friend back.

This is a rich, beautifully shot piece that is glorious to the eye. The scenery and areas used for the film’s setting are stunning and help capture a slower pace in life, where animals roam free, and the local pub’s centre is the universe. McDonagh uses his surroundings almost like an extra character. Yet while this film is about falling out of friends, it is brimming with ideas and feelings that take us to a simpler time. Whether it be the local store, run by a woman who has a thirst for gossip, or the university students who enjoy playing local music with Colm in the pub every night, each fits in like a well-cut jigsaw to a story that is summed up in a sentence.

Yet it is the relationships that McDonagh is more interested in. Mainly there is Pádraic and Colm. Two men who seem to be worlds apart with their differences: Pádraic, a gentle and simple man who lives for his pint with his friend, while Colm, a more bullish individual, who has decided to move away from the things that waste his time to explore the world he truly loves. Also in this tale is Pádraic’s spinster sister Siobhán, a strong-willed woman who loves reading and is a much stricter individual than her brother. Finally, there is Dominic, the village fool, whose father is the local policeman but holds a very dark secret.

McDonagh weaves his tale around these people effortlessly, allowing us to enjoy the banter between them and some impressive, laugh-out-loud sequences, then switching to much darker moments. Yet while all of this is playing out, you forget that the plot couldn’t be more uncomplicated, yet you are lost in this magical world.

The performances are of such high quality it would be hard to ignore any of them when the awards come around. Barry Keoghan is excellent as Dominic, a charming character who dishes out words of wisdom that make no sense. Keoghan has always shown great promise in films like The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Eternals, but he shines as a star to watch here. Kerry Condor is magnificent as Siobhán, a woman who has been held back from living on a farm and needs to escape. She is the most robust character in this piece and a joy to behold.

Colin Farrell and Brandon Gleason starred alongside each other in McDonagh’s In Bruges, but here they are incredible. Gleason, like Colm, is a man who makes questionable decisions in his battle to stop Pádraic from talking to him, but he can understand his frustrations and his thought patterns. He commands the screen each time he appears. Yet on the other side of the spectrum, this is Farrell’s finest hour, a quietly underplayed performance full of raw emotions that are both hilarious and heartbreaking. If the awards nominations come along, it will be Farrell who will grab at least a handful.

We must not forget the animals in the movie. McDonagh has managed the impossible. He has given his animals characters too, especially Jenny the Donkey, who manages to steal the film from everyone. Look out for a cow who manages to upstage Farrell by looking through the window.

The Banshees of Inisherin is fantastic. An excellent film oozing with beauty and love. It’s hilarious but with a sting in the tale. Other filmmakers should take heed. Martin McDonagh knows how to write dialogue and create worlds you want to spend your life in. One of the finest films this year.

5 out of 5

Director: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleason, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny, Bríd Ní Neachtain

Written by: Martin McDonagh

Running Time: 114 mins

Cert: 15

Release date: 21st October 2022


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