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Review: The Banshees of Inisherin. A heartbreaking comedy

  • Release year: 2022
  • Director: Martin McDonagh.
  • Producers: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin and Martin McDonagh.
  • Screenplay by: Martin McDonagh.
  • Cinematographer: Ben Davis.
  • Music by: Carter Burwell.

Synopsis: Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) is a man who lives on the small island of Inisherin. His best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) decides one day that he doesn’t want anything to do with him because he is boring. Pádraic will try to change his mind, leading to catastrophic consequences.

Shotgun commentary: Movie as depressing as it is funny. Get ready for stunning locations, a lot of second-hand embarrassment and one of Colin Farrell’s best performances ever.

Pádraic asking Colm why he hates him,  image for the review of The Banshees of Inisherin
Fig. 1. Pádriac talking to Colm to find out why he hates him. Source: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022).

Review

When walking into a Martin McDonagh feature [Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), Seven Psychopaths (2012), In Bruges (2008)], one expects to watch something beautifully depressing and weirdly funny, which is exactly what this film is, so no disappointment there.

The story that The banshees of Inisherin tells is so simple yet so well written that you can interpret it in under two minutes or take longer than two days. It gives the spectator freedom to choose how much they want to take from it. The clarity of the events that take place and the engaging rhythm of the dialogues secure the audience’s attention as well as its understanding, so all that is left is choosing the amount of extra philosophical/moral/social commentary that you want to take from the story. This option is available through the analysis of the behaviour and comments of each character, all of them skillfully written and portrayed.

Fig. 2. Pádraic and Colm, in front of a breath taking scenery, talking about why the last one hates the first. Source: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022).

Interesting and nice, a contradiction?

Colin Farrell delivers a magnificent performance. The interactions between his character, Pádraic, and the rest of the parts, only enhance the incredible emotional display that Farrell is capable of. The protagonist’s evolution throughout the movie is very satisfying, he begins as an affable man but quickly becomes a much darker soul. The joyful sense of revenge that erupts from the spectator when watching this personality change invites a reflection on how sad it is that violence is still the most common way to prevail in this world and that only people with darkness in them feel interesting while nice people get boring so fast. It says a lot about human nature and social conventions.

Pádraic realilsing Colm has always been an asshole, image for the review of The Banshees of Inisherin
Fig. 3. Pádraic realising that Colm has always been an asshole. Source: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022).

Old acquaintances and great suprises

As for Brendan Gleeson, who portrays Colm Doherty, he delivers a good performance, although his role is one he is very comfortable with: grumpy Irish guy. He shines the least because he has done the same character a million times. If this time was supposed to have something different, some kind of new depth, it did not come through at all.

The complete opposite happens with Barry Keoghan’s portrayal of Dominic Kearny. He is the big revelation in this film. Even though I have seen many of his performances, his appearances are never especially memorable. I only clearly remember him in Eternals, and heaven knows that movie did no one any favours…, so his role as Dominic is a wonderful change of pace.

Fig. 4. Dominic asking for shelter in Pádraic and Siobhán’s home.
Source: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022).

Another character of great significance is Siobhán Súilleabháin (Kerry Condon). It is elating to see a female character so competently written by a man. Although McDonagh does not usually fail in this department, it is still uncommon to see realistic women representations when created by men, so it is always a pleasant surprise. Condon gives life to Siobhán, an intelligent and ambitious woman who is passionate and protective about what she loves. Her empathy and finesse make her the most lovable part and the fact that she gets what she deserves is a very kind detail in a story so characterised by suffering and pain.

Fig. 5. Siobhán angry at Pádraic for inviting Dominic to stay. Source: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022).

As for the cinematography, the scenery plays an important role in the beauty of the movie.

Is it talent or simply Ireland?

While it is not hard to find magnificent settings when shooting in Ireland, the light balance might be tricky in some of the spaces used for the film. However, the careful use of light both in outside and inside spaces manages to dodge possible issues that will pull you from the succession of events that you are watching, delivering a very natural and clean light configuration. All in all, The Banshees of Inisherin is a beautiful, original and entertaining feature that reflects the care and talent of everyone involved, both in front and behind the cameras.

Fig. 6. Pádraic going to Colm’s house. Both the sky and the land are perfectly visible, thus showcasing part of the care and talent mentioned above.
Source: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022).

Advice to take from this movie:

  • Keep an eye out for weird stuff that your pet might mistake for food.
  • If a creepy banshee-like old lady from the mountains starts talking about death, pack up and leave far, far away.
  • You might want to see a professional before you start self-mutilating.
Fig. 7. Mrs. McCormick, the most banshee to ever banshee despite Colm’s statement about the lack of banshees in Inisherin, staring off into the distance. Source: The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh, 2022).

What’s your take? Did you find this movie original or have you heard similar tales before? Did you have a few laughs? Did you not and do not understand why anyone would? Do you also suffer from Keoghan’s amnesia? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments below or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema related articles check out the rest of my blog!

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