- Sheldon Gaskell
The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
(dark humor, mature themes, language, alcohol use)
Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan
Streaming on demand.
Imagine living a simple farming life in the idyllic, emerald countryside of a small island off of mainland Ireland, safe from the civil war that rages there with occassional blasts of cannon fire, where after long days tending animals you enjoy a frothy stout in your local pub with your life-long best friend...only this so-called friend, your closest companion from as far back as you can remember, tells you in a not-so-nice way that he "just don't like you no more," that he is tired of your dull personality, that you are a burden to his artisitic process, and he doesn't want anything more to do with you.
So begins Martin McDonagh's darkly funny and peculiarly sad film The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), a bromance gone so sour the yeast turns to rot and the toxic refuse boils over and taints the whole town. Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell), the nice man he proclaims to be, cannot believe his beloved musician friend Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) would abandon him so, leaving him only his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), pet donkey Jenny, and annoying-though sympathetic- town idiot Dominic (Barry Keoghan) for company. Denying the absurdity of Colm's sudden rejection, much to the disapproval of Siobhán (the voice of reason), Pádraic attempts to rekindle their friendship to disasterous ends. After multiple rejections of elevated intensity and their aftermath, their once wholesome bond is truly severed and Pádraic is doomed to a life of profound loneliness.
Much of the film's power resonates in allegory: the falling out of countrymen a metaphor for ongoing civil war. War, especially between people within the same country, often does not make any more sense than the absurd breakup of two friends like Pádraic and Colm. The film is anchored in a brilliant script, both incredibly humorous and achingly existential, that prods questions from the viewer rather than answers: Which is worth remembering, artistic genius or kindness? What is loneliness, and how can one escape its crippling isolation? Deeply philosophical nodes are present behind the seemingly mundane, though smartly contrived, plot resonating with the everyday experiences of folks in a rural Irish countryside. The dialogue vibrates with colloquial jargon, deprecating humor, and an equally tender heart. Colin Farrel delivers the aloof personality of his protagonist with masterful precision. His facial expressions and verbal timing in response to ridicule are impeccably placed. Brendan Gleeson delivers the absurdity of his antagonist with equal strokes of stubbornness and sympathy. Kerry Condon fills every scene she's in with fire, the passionate feminine brand of kindness in an island of masculine division. Perhaps most impressive: Barry Keoghan presents complexity through simplicity in his character. He performs comedic idiocy as a mask for sorrow and reveals deeply wrought pains through body fidgets and voice inflections.
The symbolic setting, acting, and writing for this film alone mark it worthy for analysis for years to come, but I cannot help feeling the film has too many loose ends and questions without answers. Perhaps these mysteries will remain haunting us like banshees in times of loneliness.