‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ Beautifully Examines the End of a Friendship
Martin McDonagh's new film brilliantly explores the meaning of friendship and features award-worthy performances from Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
Opening in theaters on October 28th is the new film from Oscar-winning director Martin McDonagh (‘Six Shooter,’ ‘In Bruges,’ ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’) entitled ‘The Banshees of Inisherin.’
Set in the small Irish town of Inisherin during the Irish Civil War, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) discovers one day to his surprise that his best friend and drinking buddy Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) no longer wants anything to do with him, with no other reason given.
Broken hearted, Pádraic confides in his sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), who encourages him not to give up on their friendship. Pádraic tries to befriend Colm again, or at least find out why he no longer wants to be his friend. But Colm will not change his mind and tells Pádraic that if he ever speaks to him again, he will cut off his own fingers. What follows is a war between the two men, one that the town of Inisherin will not soon forget.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a simple story, beautifully written and directed by Martin McDonagh, featuring brilliant performances from Brendan Gleeson, and especially Colin Farrell. The movie examines friendship, loneliness, and sacrifice, while still being quite funny and having a lot to say about humanity.
McDonagh’s script is very smart and says a lot about human nature. While the story is simple, it allows the filmmaker to really focus on these characters and examine their relationships with each other. Everything about Inisherin seems authentic, right down to the accents and the gorgeous landscapes shot by cinematographer Ben Davis. McDonagh builds an immersive environment that as an audience member you completely fall in love with.
But McDonagh’s screenplay is also very funny, and the film finds the dark humor in the unfortunate situation. Farrell and Gleeson both clearly understand their characters, and much of the humor comes out of how serious the situation becomes. The dialogue is also very clever but seems incredibly organic at the same time.
McDonagh also wisely chose the Irish Civil War as the backdrop to this smaller but still very bloody war between former friends. It acts as an allegory for what war really is and how any person is capable of waging war on another human being. The fact that Pádraic and Colm were lifelong friends that could so easily turn on each other, is parallel to the actual family members fighting against each other in the Irish Civil War.
Kerry Condon also gives a strong performance as Siobhán, Pádraic’s understanding sister. She tries to make the peace between Pádraic and Colm but to no avail. Condon has great chemistry with Farrell and they are terrific in their scenes together.
Pádraic is reliant on Siobhán, and that has been difficult for her as she dreams of leaving her small town but worries what will happen to her brother if she leaves him behind. Condon’s performance communicates her character’s feelings with very little dialogue.
Barry Keoghan does his best as Dominic Kearney, a local who tries to befriend Pádraic when Colm turns his back on him. Keoghan is a promising young actor, but his character is never given enough time to really be fleshed out and his outcome does little to affect the main characters.
Brendan Gleeson gives a very powerful performance and as crazy as his characters actions are, makes them completely believable to the audience. While he may seem cold at first, the actor is able to break his character’s facade at times and lets us in on the sorrow and emptiness he feels. Colm seeks greatness to outlast him mortality, and in doing so, forsakes friendship and humanity.
The movie is really an examination of what happens when we shut other people out of our lives. After we all spent time in lockdown during the pandemic, the movie really illuminates for the audience the idea that human beings need other human beings to survive, and what happens to a person in complete solidarity.
But frankly, I expect a top-level performance from an actor like Brendan Gleeson, what I didn’t expect was how good a performance Colin Farrell would give. I’ve always really liked Farrell as an actor, but thought he was unfairly underrated. I hope that changes with this film, because it is the best performance of his career and definitely deserves Oscar attention.
In some ways, Farrell is really a character actor rather than a leading man, having given great performances in supporting roles in ‘The Batman,’ ‘The Gentlemen,’ and even ‘Dumbo.’ While Pádraic is definitely the main character of this story, Farrell completely loses himself in the role, creating an awkward and insecure man heartbroken by rejection.
Gleeson and Farrell also have great chemistry together after appearing in McDonagh’s modern classic ‘In Bruges,’ and make a compelling onscreen duo. I imagine many ‘Bruges’ fans will want to see this movie because of the reuniting cast, they won’t be disappointed, but should be prepared that this is NOT ‘In Bruges 2.’
In the end, writer and director Martin McDonagh has crafted another compelling, if not slightly odd, comedic drama with brilliant performances from its lead actors. ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is one of the best films of the year, and Colin Farrell’s performance deserves a lot of attention come awards time.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ receives 4.5 out of 5 stars.