It’s a reunion for director Martin McDonagh and leading co-stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson who had all previously worked together in the 2008 crime comedy, In Bruges. The pairing of Farrell and Gleeson was like catching lightning in a bottle, but McDonagh proves that it can happen again.
The story of The Banshees of Inisherin is one of little complexities, but the characters that inhabit the little Irish island of Inisherin are what gives McDonagh’s dark humoured drama the life it needs.
Set in the early 20’s during the Irish civil war, the residents of Inisherin feel far removed from the mainlands. A village full of idiots but also an important image of the working class. One of those is Pádraic (Farrell). A nice, well-intentioned milk farmer who’s battling a break-up with his lifelong best friend Colm (Gleeson).
Colm’s abrupt callousness and bitterness towards his old friend is one that leaves both audiences and Pádraic himself with little understanding or explanation. Early on this gives us great comic relief with the village folk questioning whether the pair are just rowing, as Pádraic wonders of possible drunken woes.
We discover that the answer to that is just of Pádraic’s dullness. Colm’s clock is ticking, and he fears his conversations with Pádraic will leave him with a lack of life fulfilment. Colm even reveals at one point that no one is ever remembered for being nice. He is a fiddler and wishes to just live out the rest of his life playing his fiddle and writing new music, which is something Pádraic simply can’t grasp.
With both men set on their ways, it leads to Colm taking drastic measures to ensure Pádraic keeps his distance. The film then enters pure McDonagh territory blending clever comedy with seriously dark undertones. Halfway through you realise you’re thematically in a very different place to where the movie started, and where and how it was going to end becomes a big mystery.
There’s a strong message ringing throughout its runtime. The conflict from the civil war acts as a perfect metaphor for the conflict between these two men and their fierce and very broken friendship. You’ll occasionally hear the gunshots from afar and puffs of smoke from the rigorous gun fire, and conversations of the battle flow through the citizens of Inisherin like it’s just another topic of discussion.
The ongoing ramifications of these men’s actions have a knock-on effect on the rest of the residents. Most of all Pádraic’s sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon) with who he shares his little farm with. The other being the son of seemingly the only patrolling copper in town, Dominic (Barry Keoghan). Whilst some of the dialogue leans heavily into Pádraic’s dull and dim characteristics, it’s Keoghan’s Dominic who really earns the title of village idiot. But it’s a performance that manages to undercut its lead stars, stealing almost any scene he shares with the pair.
Having just come out of the Halloween season, which always brings elated movie goers back to the big screen, and two huge blockbuster comic book movies to come out either end of ‘The Banshees’ cinema run, it’s a tough film to market and warrant people to head back to the theatres. Despite Ben Davis’ stunning cinematography which is very representative of its bleak and moody atmosphere, the general feel and style to it will perhaps be a hard sell for the public.
McDonagh’s script is like a big pot of gold that you’ll find at the end of the rainbow, but it’s the chemistry of the leading co-stars which take it to a whole new level. The trio of McDonagh, Farrell and Gleeson are Ireland’s answer to the ‘Cornetto’ trio of Wright, Pegg and Frost. With both In Bruges and The Banshees of Inisherin being two great entries, a third and perhaps final film to cap off the collective minds of these three incredibly talented men would be one hell of a marketing strategy.