It took me a couple days to fully absorb the brilliant black comedy and dramatic confrontations spun by THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN.
Hilarious, jaw-dropping and heart breaking, it’s the latest work from Writer/Director Martin McDonagh. As a huge fan of his previous works “In Bruges”, and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, I knew McDonagh would take me on a ride.
Colin Farrell stars as Padraic, living a quiet life in 1923 on the sleepy island of Inisherin off the West Coast of Ireland. Every afternoon, he walks to his buddy Colm’s cottage, and they head to the pub for a beer and a chat.
One afternoon, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) puts an immediate end to their friendship.
It’s unexplained and not in reaction to any specific wrong committed by Padraic.
Padraic is crushed and confused. What will he do every afternoon?
Padraic’s sister Siobhan (the excellent Kerry Condon) is baffled as well and wonders what really happened.
Dominic is the early-twenties son of the local police chief and offers to help Padraic fix what’s wrong. Barry Keoghan is nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and deserves it, his Dominic is a disturbed, aimless young man with a big heart and no social graces.
Farrell and Gleeson are both flawless as the former friends dealing with the fallout of Colm’s sudden decision. When Padraic innocently refuses to honor his friend’s wishes to leave him alone, Colm issues a public ultimatum on what he’ll do if Padraic continues to talk to him.
Only in a world created by McDonagh could such laughter and soul-draining sadness co-exist on the same wind-blown cliffs.
While Colm desires more in an afternoon companion, Siobahn desires more in her life than her poor & tiny home shared with her brother and a donkey. Condon conveys such intelligence and awareness in the role, you’re instantly vested in her improving her life.
Farrell’s Padraic is so innocent and simple that you want to jump onscreen and protect him.
His despair at losing his friend and his ongoing trouble staying away is the best balance of hilarity and sadness I’ve seen in recent memory.
Gleeson’s Colm is a man trying to live a worldly life while trapped on an intellectual island. His confessional booth exchange with the local Priest is explosively hilarious.
John Irving is the only other writer I can think of like McDonagh that creates characters you care about and then shatters them with death or consequences that alter their path along with your expectations.
McDonagh does so masterfully here.
Set against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, cannons and gunshots can often be heard in the distance, in a war that feels next door and yet very far away. Padraic and Colm’s personal conflict feels much more life threatening than the explosions on the mainland’s hills.
Farrell has described his character arc as “the disintegration of joy” and there aren’t better words to describe the film, leading to an ending that’s both perfect and unavoidable.
Colm tells Padraic, “I just have a tremendous sense of time slipping away on me Padraic.”
That’s something all the inhabitants if Inisherin share. How they each deal with it is the brilliance of McDonagh’s tale.
BANSHEES stayed with me for days after seeing it and a month later, still makes me think about these people. Like Irving, that’s McDonagh’s gift. BANSHEES gets an A+.