Written by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan
In the grand scheme of things, we have such a limited amount of time here on Earth, meaning we need to be intentional in how we spend each day. Whether it be from what we do at work or the people we surround ourselves with, seeing as these areas dictate so much of our precious time. The Banshees of Inisherin tells the tragic tale of one man choosing to reclaim his time by ending a friendship along with the devastating impact it has on his former friend.
Following the grand tradition of going to the pub for the evening, Pádraic (Colin Farrell) sees his best friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who refuses to go. Confused about the sudden coldness from his friend, Pádraic wants to know the reason to which Colm responds that he just does not like Pádraic anymore.
Taking place on this small island off the coast of Ireland during the Civil War, the utter sadness and melancholy hanging over everyone in this feature makes the joy of any evening to meet in the local pub for a few pints absolutely riveting. Other vehicles of entertainment remain fairly rare with the only form of it coming from the individuals you have around you. It’s what has kept Pádraic going for years as he walks, talks, and drinks with Colm. This sudden separation has him in freefall mode and he simply refuses to accept the reasons why they can no longer be friends. It initially starts with Colm saying he does not like Pádraic anymore, which alone could be devastating. When the truth eventually gets revealed, it gets into the much deeper thematic battle at the center of the whole narrative, which is the grandiosity of how one uses their time and the legacy one wants to leave behind.
Colm explaining why he’s refusing to see Pádraic moving forward has more to do with his own introspection of his life rather than Pádraic as a person. Sure, he does call Pádraic dull but Colm becomes obsessed with what he will be remembered for, which tends to happen when someone has reached the moment in life where they see the end on the horizon. Something that makes sense but the cost of losing a friendship because he does not deem as valuable with the remaining time he has left on Earth feels harsh, which is certainly reflected by the pain in Pádraic. This pain becomes the inciting incident for all of the outlandish events that will occur later in the film and the deep sadness that emanates from it. This beautiful meditation on these ideals along with the distinctly Irish dark comedy is what makes this feature so special.
This push and pull between Pádraic and Colm reach such a level of pettiness that it eventually draws everyone else in the village into it. Given the small population, everyone knows each other’s business and when two well-known best friends like Colm and Pádraic are rowing, then it becomes a topic of interest for everyone to inquire about. The notoriety of this dispute makes for some great moments to glance at others in the pub or town peering into the conversations as it probably serves as the best form of entertainment they’ve had for a while. However, for others, it begins to get grating, especially for Pádraic’s sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon).
It’s wild to think in a film where Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson most likely give the best performances of their career that they can get completely outshone by another cast member with less screen time, but that’s definitely the case when it comes to Condon. A maiden who gets hassled because she has yet to marry and mostly keeps to herself reading in her home. She yearns for something more in life and when she sees how this friendship dispute impacts her brother, she finally decides to get involved by doing so, she calls out the selfishness of these men and the delusions of grandeur they all have. A sense of self-centeredness that she sees right through and it provides for some of Condon’s finest moments in the film. She electrifies in every instance and it made me wish there was much more of her in the story, or that we get a follow-up on the adventures she goes on in the future.
With that being said, Colin Farrell and his characterization of Pádraic is the heart and soul of this feature. Someone who embodies and takes on the brilliant Martin McDonagh screenplay filled with Irish expletives and makes you feel for this man. He takes on the sadness with those bushy eyebrows and the utter desperation that comes from losing his best friend and the stark realization that you cannot force someone to be your friend. His monologue regarding being “nice’ really delivers the “chef’s kiss” moment of this feature and the overall position of someone who may be dull in the eyes of Colm but simply cares for the people around him. It could be Colm or his wonderful donkey Jenny, he’s a simple man filled with love that goes to various lengths to not allow this friendship to disintegrate right before his eyes.
Banshees of Inisherin both serves as a wonderfully dark comedy but also an incredibly moving breakup movie that navigates into some deeply human issues and concerns. This jumps up to the very top of Martin McDonagh’s filmography, which already includes tremendous collaborations with Colin Farrell like In Bruges. Everything about this feature feels like a point of maturity not only in his screenplay but also in his direction and it became such a pleasure to watch. A constant sense of melancholy lingers but the film proves to also be beautifully moving and hilarious as well. A complete package.