The Banshees of Inisherin
Director: Martin McDonagh
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Gary Lydon, Pat Shortt
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 29.10.2022
Content Note: child sexual abuse (mentioned), animal death, ableism
Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) have always been friends and have their fix rituals. Every day at 2pm, Pádraic picks up Colm and they go to the pub together. But one day, Colm doesn’t open the door. Pádraic is confused, he can’t remember that they had been fighting. When he finally gets Colm to talk, he just tells him flat out that he doesn’t want to be friends anymore. This just increases Pádraic’s confusion, and sets off a spiral of increasingly strange decisions.
The Banshees of Inisherin is one hell of a film. It’s surprising (go in as cold as you possibly can), it’s funny, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. It’s probably McDonagh’s best film to date, and may as well be Farrell’s best performance. I was completely floored by it.
It’s hard to talk about The Banshees of Inisherin because it is such a strange film – in the best of way. It does so many unexpected things, and doesn’t fit into any category or genre, it really feels like a film that is somehow contained within itself, that is its own thing entirely. Yes, there are things that you’d expect from a McDonagh film – witty dialogue, a very dark sense of humor, a dose of brutality, and vibrant characters.
And yet, Banshees is something else, and I think that feeling of seeing something for the first time came, for me, mostly from Farrell’s performance. Pádraic is an unusual character in the sense that he is not the kind of character we usually get movies about. He is content in an ostensibly boring life where everything is always the same. Brought to life by Farrell, though, we get all of the depth of Pádraic’s existence (depth that is, of course, part of every existence, but that we don’t always see). When Pádraic realizes that Colm isn’t joking, Farrell manages to make his heartbreak so visible, you feel like he actually pulled out his heart and showed it to you split in two. I feel like we tend to forget what an excellent actor Farrell is because he is so goddamn beautiful, but in this film he is in a new league altogether.
This is very much Farrell’s film but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the cast isn’t excellent. Gleeson’s Colm is an immovable object, a force of nature that you cannot understand but must admire somewhat. Condon’s Siobhan, Pádraic’s sister, seems the only person with a clear head, and I loved the development the film had in store for her. And Keoghan’s Dominic is a beautifully vivid character. I really liked Keoghan’s performance, but I would have liked it even better if Dominic had been played by someone who actually has a learning disability.
Aside from the characters and the story itself, the film is shot beautifully, excellently paced and draws some parallels between the end of this friendship and the Irish Civil War (though I don’t know enough about it to understand those parallels properly). It really shows McDonagh at the height of his craft.