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Review: The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Premise: Set in 1923, two old friends (Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson) have a falling out when one of them abruptly ends the relationship.

What Works: The Banshees of Inisherin comes from writer and director Martin McDonagh who had previously created In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. McDonagh’s storytelling is distinguished by a mix of humor and melancholy and a discernable spiritual anguish and The Banshees of Inisherin is the most effective combination of those qualities. The film is primarily about two men whose friendship comes to an abrupt end when one of them decides he is fed up with the other. As the story continues, the conflict is revealed to be more complicated than boredom or annoyance; at issue is the desire for a meaningful existence and frustration with the limitations of our everyday life. The Banshees of Inisherin reunites Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who previously starred in McDonagh’s In Bruges, and once again they are a great on-screen duo. Gleeson plays a local musician who is quietly panicking about the finiteness of his life while Farrell is cast as his well-mannered but not so worldly friend. Farrell and Gleeson are convincing as men who have been friends for years and we can see the hurt in Farrell’s performance. Also impressive are Kerry Condon as the sister of Farrell’s character and Barry Keoghan as a fellow islander. These characters have vivid life and the performances are very funny with the actors delivering the witty dialogue with a great sense of comic timing. But this scenario isn’t funny to the characters and the film is infused with heartbreak and sadness that makes it compelling. This intimate story occurs against the background of the Irish Civil War and that adds another layer of meaning to the conflicts on the island. The filmmakers don’t overplay this; the war remains in the background but it’s enough to suggest a bigger world and The Banshees of Inisherin is specific and intimate while its themes and ideas have larger implications. 

What Doesn’t: The film includes a plot twist in which Gleason’s character chops off one of his own fingers to guilt his former friend into leaving him alone. This is the one part of the movie that isn’t quite credible. Given that the story is set in 1923, the character would not have access to modern medicine and would be in considerable pain and at risk of infection but the film doesn’t really address this.

Bottom Line: The Banshees of Inisherin is a potent black comedy. The film is very funny but like Martin McDonagh’s other work that humor is infused with sadness and The Banshees of Inisherin pokes at something profound about the human experience.  

Episode: #927 (November 13, 2022)