‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ Review: A friendship on a small island
Both hilarious and painful, ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a terrific feel-bad movie, with an astonishingly perfect performance from Farrell.
Today, one can easily block or unfriend someone on social media without much drama. But in Martin McDonagh’s award-winning black comedy The Banshees of Inisherin, it’s impossible to do so when it’s 1923 and you are on a terribly small and isolated island, with only one pub. You are bound to bump into each other several times a day.
So when intellectual Colm (Brendan Gleeson) suddenly decides to cut off from his simple-minded buddy Pádraic (Colin Farrell), it’s a tragicomedy.
Irish writer-director McDonagh cleverly confines the tale of a destroyed friendship within a small space, on the fictional remote island of Inisherin, off the west coast of Ireland, with the Irish Civil War only heard through distant rifles.
Both hilarious and painful, it’s a terrific feel-bad movie, with an astonishingly perfect performance from Farrell as the devastated Pádraic, who without Colm becomes a lost puppy, untethered and pathetic in his efforts to restore their friendship.
But no matter how sorry you are for Pádraic, it is hard to get mad at Colm for hurting Pádraic’s feelings. The older Colm has a quiet panicking inside, about losing his precious time to long, inane chats with the dull Pádraic when he could use it for creative pursuits.
When Colm tells his heartbroken friend, “So, we’ll keep aimlessly chatting and me life’ll keep dwindling,” it’s hard to argue with that.
But the film’s genius is that it also goes beyond the tale of two lost souls on a bleak, stunning island. It equally portrays with richness its supporting characters, whose internal sufferings are exquisitely captured. Pádraic’s only kin on the island, his loving and smart sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), feels out of place in a parochial setting, and there’s the town youth, Dominic (Barry Keoghan), whose development is stunted by a lack of teenage experience and, worse, by horrific abuse from his father.
It calls to mind local anthropological films, such as Lemuel Lorca’s Water Lemon and Chito Roño’s Signal Rock — a study of human society and culture in the milieu of an isolated coastal town.
A glorious landscape and seascape cannot compensate for the lack of mental stimulation in a remote habitat, and some of the simple-minded people on Inisherin naturally rely on gossip and/or companionship for survival.
Inisherin is so tiny that even the Catholic confessional box no longer needs a screen for anonymity — with the island’s only priest hilariously already aware of the folks’ sins.
And so with time crawling in a poor town on the fringes of war, rejection, boredom and existential dread feel more magnified and deeply profound.
The island’s “banshee,” Mrs. McCormick (Sheila Flitton), is another riveting character, who adds a dash of mysticism to the narrative. McDonaghs’ townsfolk and events are all interconnected, even miniature donkeys and dogs, and broken fingers and death.
A big winner in this year’s Golden Globes, bagging Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy, Best Screenplay, and a well-deserved Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Farrell, The Banshees of Inisherin is a masterful tale rich with pathos and pitch-black humor.
The ending may fall just a little short, but overall this Oscar frontrunner is one of the finest dark comedies in recent history and one of the best of 2022.
The Banshees of Inisherin is streaming on Disney+.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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