CINEMA REVIEW: THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN (2022)
Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh
Produced by: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin & Martin McDonagh
Main Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, etc.
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Edited by: Mikkel E. G. Nielsen
Music by: Carter Burwell
*** MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***
The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is Martin McDonagh’s latest cinematic masterpiece. Not only is it one of the best films of the year he has, as with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), constructed one of the most formidable screenplays of many a year. As a playwright McDonagh has won many awards for his works. His debut film, In Bruges (2008), was a deceptively simple story of two hitmen on the run which, with rich thematic power, became a darkly hilarious existential cult classic. His follow-up Seven Psychopaths (2012), a heady mix of criminals versus writers in a meta-fictional Hollywood-based narrative was brilliantly written and acted, if slightly lacking thematic clarity. Like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is a highly emotional human drama which contains intelligent allegory, incredible characterization, and cracking dialogue.
Set in 1923 on an island off of Southern Ireland called aptly Inisherin, the film opens by focussing on genial everyman farmer, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) and his daily routine. After tending to his animals, he usually calls for his friend, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) to go to the island pub, the J.J. Devine or Jonjo’s. In England there is an idiom called, “sending someone to Coventry.” This means to ignore or ostracize an individual or individuals. So, basically Colm chooses to do this to his long-standing friend, Pádraic. This shunning completely bemuses Pádraic and despite Colm’s pleading for Pádraic to respect his wishes, he continually seeks an answer to his former friend’s decision.
After this intriguing premise is established, what follows is a tremendously original, darkly funny and emotionally penetrating succession of scenes. The exchanges between the two characters begins as bickering but then descends into some seriously disturbing acts of recrimination. Attempting to make them see sense are various eccentric characters on the island who provide many witty and absurd exchanges that McDonagh specialises in. Further, Pádraic’s sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) is almost the one voice of reason as the feud escalates. As she tries to diffuse the conflict, even Barry Keoghan’s young idiot, Dominic Kearney, the initial comic relief in the film, attempts to make these two men see sense.
Visually, The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), is incredibly rich. The territory displays gorgeously photographed shots of the rocks, the sea, the stone roads and the lush green countryside. But while there is a sense of expanse and freedom initially, the feeling of isolation pervades. As the story continues the characters feel more and more segregated by the sea and their own or other’s decisions. None more so than Farrell’s Pádraic. A simple man who just wants to do his work and get drunk with his friend, he finds he is sequestered by Colm’s desire to self-isolate and concentrate on his music. Here, Farrell and Gleeson give tremendous character work. Farrell especially has rarely been better as Pádraic’s attitude turns initially from shock to bitterness over the journey of the narrative.
A film director’s job is for me about making key creative choices. Martin McDonagh makes brilliant choices while working from his own exceptional script. I loved everything about The Banshees of Inisherin (2022). The look, the performances, the pacing, the locations and Carter Burwell’s phenomenal score are absolutely first class. I haven’t even mentioned Barry Keoghan’s memorable supporting turn. He surely is one of the most naturally gifted actors of his generation. Not to forget other striking characters in the ensemble such as the creepy, Mrs McCormick (Sheila Flitton), an old harridan who acts as a portent for death on the island.
Martin McDonagh expertly combines a superb ear for dialogue, a psychologically absorbing analysis of the human condition with elements from Waiting For Godot and Channel Four situation comedy, Father Ted. Above all else, The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) is a darkly, spectacular cinematic experience which works on many levels. On one level it is about the isolation of island life and its inhabitants. On another it’s about the death of a friendship. While on yet another level it is about the analogous absurdity of civil war and how conflict can start for the merest of reasons. While the best cinema is certainly about showing and not telling, McDonagh proves again that dialogue-driven films can produce cinematic theatre, comedy and tragedy of the highest order.