When I saw the trailer for The Banshees of Inisherin 2 months ago, it instantly had me intrigued. The trailer was really funny and the plot seemed to be remarkably quaint: lifelong friends abruptly fall out after no explanation. Starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, two actors whom I love alongside some breath-taking cinematography on a fictional Irish island.
When I saw the trailer for The Banshees of Inisherin 2 months ago, it instantly had me intrigued. The trailer was really funny and the plot seemed to be remarkably quaint: lifelong friends abruptly fall out after no explanation. Starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, two actors whom I love alongside some breath-taking cinematography on a fictional Irish island. I had heard that the director Martin McDonagh had made the cult classic film ‘In Bruges’ with the same two actors back in 2008 and that this film was an excuse to get the band back together. After watching ‘In Bruges’ earlier this week, my excitement for The Banshees of Inisherin only grew!
The central performance from Farrell is astonishing, he has to capture a wonderful giddy optimism but also a gradual descent into depression. He plays Pádraic (pronounced 'Porick'), a typically gleeful man who prides himself on being nice and loves nothing more than going to the pub at 2 o’ clock each day with his best friend Colm (pronounced 'Colim'). Gleeson plays the grumpier, older man of the two who is a genius with music – especially the fiddle – but crushes Pádraic when he pushes him away without warning. At first Pádraic is completely baffled until he realises it may have been an April Fool's joke. He soon learns it’s anything but and when Colm threatens to remove a finger with his shears for every time he’s bothered, the stakes and tension are raised.
For a film that has such a witty and hilarious script there’s a deep undercurrent of sadness as it addresses darkness too. Themes of Catholic guilt, male depression, gothic horror and assault are all tackled in a head-on way. This is emphasised metaphorically by the 1923 setting and the backdrop of the Irish Civil War that mirrors the two men and their astute awareness that this relationship may not be recoverable. At no point is the comedy or tragic drama compromised. The movie at its crux is about duality, right and wrong, dullness and creativity. The characters are all understandable but twisted and flawed. The film only takes place in a handful of locations so the characters are the clear drivers of the plot and that results in a stage-like quality.
Other cast members include Kerry Condon as Siobhán (Pádraic’s sister and the only reasonable character), Barry Keoghan as Dominic (friendly, but a sort of village idiot) and Sheila Flitton as Mrs. McCormack (an old woman, or banshee if you will, who prophesises about the island’s future). There are other comical residents on the island like the barman, Jonjo, and the nosy shopkeeper as well as Mrs. Reardon.
At the core, the film is a striking and profound cautionary tale of mental health, friendship and the breakdown of communication. It’s about coming to terms with mortality and the ways in which people react to heartbreak and death. I highly recommend this masterclass of a film; it is truly special and one of my favourites from this year.