Banshees of Inisherin (2022) – Reel Review

Director: Martin McDonagh | 1h 54mins | Comedy, Drama

Padraic and Colm find themselves at an impasse when Colm abruptly ends their friendship. When Padraic wants answers, it leads to irreversible consequences for the both of them.

There is something wildly unpredictable about a Martin McDonagh script, his jet black sense of humour very often delivers absurdity after absurdity but one thing that is always present is a tone unafraid to delve deeper. McDonagh’s last film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, encapsulates this better than most – but returning to his Irish roots, and teaming up with In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the director’s talents have never looked more at home than they do on the coasts of Ireland. 

To be more specific, the island is Inisherin – a place surrounded by vast greenery where its inhabitants spend most days in the single pub the island has to offer, talking about nothing and merely existing. When Colm, played bitterly by Brendan Gleeson in consistent form, decides he’s had enough of the mindless chatter offered to him by Padraic, he dryly announces “I just don’t like you no more.” It’s a simple set up, one that makes you question where this film is going, but McDonagh’s script is about so much more than its simple plot, exploring loneliness and lacing it with existential dread. 

In the vastness of Inisherin, the luscious greenery quickly turns into an empty reflection of its characters. Colm’s obsession with musical legacy locks horns with Padraic’s simple joy of daily surroundings, and Padriac’s sister Siobhan (played excellently by Kerry Condon) encompasses the entire population of the island and their longing for more. The dreary undertone has become a quintessential part of McDonagh’s storytelling, arguably joining The Coen Brothers as one of the best filmmakers who’s able to blend humour and darkness so impeccably. 

McDonagh and Cinematographer Ben Davis are able to capture both the beauty and emptiness of their setting. Every shot captures the inescapable path that people must walk, as most of the characters begin to rethink their existence on the dreary island every shot allows us to see the loneliness they really feel. While McDonagh films are all shot wonderfully, Banshees of Inisherin feels fresh because of its minimalism, opting to quietly focus on the limited surroundings all while accentuating the themes. Not only that, but the gorgeous shots of the landscape, accompanied by a dreamy score, make the story feel like a parable more so than anything else. 

Colin Farrell’s performance as Padraic is terrific, while the character’s naivety is wholesome enough Farrell adds an element of warmth to it. As an actor he has shown a lot of variety in the past few years, collaborating with Yorgos Lanthimos and Kogonada, but he never looks more at home than playing one of McDonagh’s deadpan and earnest characters. He’s also surrounded by a number of standout performances, as mentioned Brendan Gleeson is in consistent form, as well as Barry Keoghan adding sensibility to a role designed for humour and irritation. McDonagh is surefire to get recognition come this award season, but there will be no shock to see its stars highlighted as well. 

Whether it be the humour or the quiet themes, Banshees of Inisherin showcases Martin McDonagh at his best. Its parable-like tale and rich backdrop elevate the dreary undertone and the script’s humour is dry as you’ll see, this is one of the best films of the year and arguably, one of the finest from the directors catalogue.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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