Martin McDonagh is a hell of a storyteller. I have been captivated by the intimate portrayal of his deeply complex characters woven into unusual stories since In Bruges (2008) proverbially smacked me across the face for attention. Now comes The Banshees of Inisherin, written and directed by McDonagh and led by the same glorious pair of actors who starred in his first feature-length production.
On the island of Inisherin, off the coast of Ireland, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) has learned his friend of many years, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson), no longer wishes to continue the relationship. Apparently, Colm finds Pádraic to be a terrible dullard. Knowing in his heart he has 12-15 years left of life, Colm would rather devote his time to his principal occupation of composing music. A fine fiddler who often performs in the town’s pub, Colm wants to craft a melody that will live beyond his days on this Earth.
This puts Pádraic in a terrible bind. There are not so many people to associate with on Inisherin. His sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), is tired of dealing with his peccadilloes. This is reinforced by her disgust at Pádraic’s desire to be like the milkmen who preceded him and have the animals in the abode. Pádraic’s moping about the house, which is Siobhán’s domain, powerfully inconveniences her. Pádraic, like most Irish men, is meant to be spending his time at the pub drinking with the likes of Colm.
For a bit, Pádraic attempts to spend time with Dominic (Barry Keoghan), who comes off as the village idiot. This loose association lasts until Siobhán spurns Dominic’s advances. Keoghan imbues Dominic with this irritating tic that is simply marvelous. This annoying imbecile is quite possibly the only person more insipid than Pádraic throughout all of The Banshees of Inisherin.
“…[Colm] determined not to hear another word from Pádraic’s boring mouth threatens to remove the fingers from his left hand…”
The Banshees of Inisherin is a companion piece to In Bruges. Here, the feckless wonder is Colm. A man so determined not to hear another word from Pádraic’s boring mouth threatens to remove the fingers from his left hand with an old pair of lamb shears.
The company cast is an absolute knockout. While I did not recognize many of the bit characters, they all embody the nosy, well-informed, and sweetly intentioned folk you meet in a village or small town. Gleeson and Farrell have an elemental chemistry when paired together. I could watch them squabble about anything. Whether they’re hitmen in hiding or a fiddler and a milkman having a tiff, they are a wonder to behold.
This is the strongest film I’ve seen since Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Two such luminous and unexpected titles in the same year make for quite a good one in my book. McDonagh’s direction and writing are sublime. Four feature films in, after a glorious career directing stage plays, he has truly come into his own. I especially love the background details.
For example, The Banshees of Inisherin unfolds at the end of the 1920s. At this time, there was a civil war raging in northern Ireland between the Catholics and Protestants. Inisherin is safely removed from “the troubles” as they were known. Throughout the film, references surface in conversations. Yet, no one in Inisherin has to worry about it. Apart from Siobhán, who takes a job at a mainland library, perhaps.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a magnificent film telling a great, compelling story. Banshees are spirits of women who herald and mourn the upcoming death of loved ones. There are several candidates who qualify as a Banshee in Inisherin. It is truly heady stuff. Seek this out. You’ll not see it’s like too often.