2022 | rated R | starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan | written & directed by Martin McDonagh | 1h 45m |
Padriac (Colin Farrell) is shocked and confused when his long-time best friend and drinking buddy, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) abruptly disowns him and dissolves their friendship, an act that also rocks through the small Irish island thriving on gossip and hearsay where they live and sends Padriac on a personal journey to find out who he is and what he can do to save the friendship.
A reunion and spiritual sequel of writer/director Martin McDonagh’s In Bruge, one of the best films of it’s decade, The Banshees of Inisherin again showcases McDonagh’s unique talent to take a starting point that seems like nothing at all, much less a full film, and build a rich and compelling character drama brick by brick, one cause and effect at a time. Banshees is a slow burn, building at it’s own pace, slowly ratcheting up the stakes and fleshing out the film’s town of characters as it goes.
This reteaming of Farrell and Gleeson does the more challenging thing – the thing that people who loved In Bruge probably don’t want to see – it keeps them apart and at odds the whole film. After Colm’s sudden and somewhat cruel rebuffing of his friend, Padriac is sent into an existential tailspin. While Banshees is set in a small Irish island 100 years ago, McDonagh has made an excellent movie about being Ghosted here. Whether it’s a date or a job interview, who can’t relate to being suddenly and without warning having what you thought was a good thing just yanked out from under you? Padriac has the help of his brash sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon, scene-stealing) to serve as the go between. Siobhan (pronounced like Shivon) is both kind to her brother and has the intellectual respect of Colm to serve each interest and fend off the town gossip as well. However, nothing is simple in McDonagh’s script and the more Padriac pushes on Colm, the less he hears, the more it shifts our loyalties to Colm’s desire just to be left alone.
The movie really takes off when it expands it’s inner circle to the residents of the town. The regulars of the bar that meet for a pint every day at 2. The lady at the mail depot that traffics in good “news”. Young Dominic (Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), the “dim one” in the town who takes to Padriac when everyone else abandons him. The town police constable, and Dominic’s abusive father, who is slowly set up as the film’s antagonist. Donagh s one step ahead of us at all times with Banshees, he’s keenly aware we want Patriac and Colm to unit against a common enemy and serves up a villain both of them can dislike. But as in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Seven Psychopaths, McDonagh refuses to give us the easy way out.
In addition to the character conflict, McDonagh builds an existential debate into the film based on each character. Colm’s desire to be rid of Padriac is based on an overwhelming desire to leave a legacy after he’s gone. Everyone in the film is isolated and lonely, as Siobhan (who lives with her brother and his donkey friend) articulates out loud, but nobody else in town seems to understand. They yearn for something they can’t articulate, just that something is off and causing them despair. Padriac for his part doesn’t need a lot of people, or a love or a legacy – he’s happy as can be with his one friend, his donkey and his routine. Patriac represents the side that lives life in the now, that thinks a good life is lived in moments of “good chatter” with friends and simply being nice to those around you. He sees Colm as sacrificing that goodness for a legacy. Colm sees kindness as something that will be forgotten the instant we’re gone. McDonagh’s script is excellent, fully realizing each side of two conflicting ideas that swirl around each other without an answer – or at least an easy one.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a small film, with a small cast, and a quaint story. It moves slowly but deliberately and the payoffs escalate in satisfaction. It’s unusually cuddly for a Martin McDonagh film, all 3 of which spit in the face of political correct pearl-clutching. Three Billboards in particular challenging its audience with a possible redemption arc for a character they decided will never allowed t be redeemed. But it’s none the less challenging, thoughtful and incredibly entertaining.