"The Banshees of Inisherin" TIFF Review
Fear not all you haters of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (of which there are a lot more of you than I originally thought), writer/director Martin McDonagh has left the United States and is going back to Ireland for his newest film, The Banshees of Inisherin. And that’s not even the best part, which is that he’s reteaming with his In Bruges duo of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Actually, that’s not the best part either. The best part is that this new dark comedy is hands-down the funniest film of the year and the finest work by McDonagh as both a writer and a director.
Every afternoon when the hour hand hits two o’clock on the dot, the good-souled, yet a little dim, Pádraic (Farrell) leaves his cozy dairy farm to meet up with his best friend Colm (Gleeson), the more reserved and intellectually inclined one of the pair, down at the local pub. Colm has been tirelessly working on a new piece of music for his fiddle, one that he hopes will have him remembered long after he’s left this world.
But on one fateful day, those formalities are interrupted by Colm’s sudden need to end their relationship. “I just don’t like you anymore” is what he gives as a reason, something Pádraic can’t comprehend. And to prove that he’s absolutely serious, Colm promises to cut off one of his fingers each time Pádraic attempts to speak to him.
Will Colm actually go through with his threat? How can this friendship go on for decades ad then suddenly be declared over? And how will Pádraic respond after being dumped so brutally?
McDonagh answers these questions with devilish honesty by giving you the results you expect, but not in the way you expect them to happen. He infuses a dark undercurrent into nearly every scene, with side-splitting banter leading to some brutal anecdotes on human relationships. As was alluded to in the plot description, Colm’s threat about his fingers leads to some squirm-inducing laughter down the road.
That mixture of dark and light on the page is also evident in the direction. There’s some sumptuous cinematography (provided by go-to MCU DP Ben Davis, finally breaking free from CG-infested photography) of the titular island, with the green rolling hills cascading into the roaring sea. But not far on the other side of the water is the raging Irish Civil War, where friends turned on each other in a bloody conflict that didn’t accomplish much of anything. Sound familiar?
Trying to keep the peace between the two warring (or “rowing” as it's said in the film) friends is Pádraic’s sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon, often stealing the show with her warmth), who seems to be the only sensible one who longs to be free from the doldrums of this community. Her task is made even more difficult with the presence of the town chaos agent, Dominic (Barry Keoghan, continuing his streak of playing freaky weirdos), who makes Pádraic look like Plato.
With equally stunning turns in The Batman, After Yang, and Thirteen Lives, 2022 seems to be the year of Colin Farrell. For years his good looks have come with a monkey paw curse, as he was forced to star as boring leading men in cookie-cutter blockbusters (see The Recruit and S.W.A.T.) Fortunately, a few directors, such as Yorgos Lanthimos and McDonagh, have been able to work his charm into something a little more unique. Farrell’s innocence as Pádraic is often heartbreaking as he deals with emotional torture. And even after fourteen years apart, his chemistry with Gleeson has never been better.
Equally hilarious as it is disturbing, The Banshees of Inisherin finds Martin McDonagh, as well as his troupe of actors, in top form. There’s nothing quite like it, and it serves as another reminder that we should all be a little kinder to one another.