The Banshees of Inisherin reunites Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Gleeson, who teamed up for 2008’s In Bruges, arguably one of the best contemporary dark comedies. And while The Banshees of Inisherin is far less violent or crude than In Bruges, it is still a terrific reunion between McDonagh, Gleeson, and Farrell, who craft an excellent comedy with colorful characters and naturally funny humor.
Farrell is having one hell of a year with The Batman, After Yang, and Thirteen Lives, but gives his very best performance this year in The Banshees of Inisherin as Pádraic, who lives on the isle of Inisherin during the Irish Civil War with his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon). They live a mundane, quiet life with Pádraic’s best friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson). However, one day, Colm starts ignoring Pádraic, who wonders what’s happening. He doesn’t want to be friends with him anymore and wants to accomplish something memorable for the last few years of his life instead of hanging out with someone whom he finds “dull.”
This breakup causes a rift in the town’s relationships, with Pádraic trying to win Colm back over while his ex-best friend starts to cut his fingers every time Pádraic talks to him. It’s weird, and it’s not entirely clear why Colm would do this, but there’s never a dull moment in The Banshees of Inisherin. The movie begins the day Colm starts to ignore Pádraic, establishing terrific tension between the two, and the dramatic impact further escalates as their rivalry starts to draw itself out.
Farrell is simply terrific as Pádraic, finding a deft balance between ingeniously-performed and subtle comedy and powerful drama. One scene involving Pádraic trying to convince one of Colm’s students that his father was crushed by a bread truck has the funniest punchline of the year. And then, there are other sequences where his soul is crushed, especially when Colm starts cutting his fingers. Why is he doing this? Throughout their relationship, while he certainly seems dull (sorry!), Pádraic has always been friendly towards Colm, his sister, and friend Dominic Kearney (an underused but memorable Barry Keoghan). What did he do to deserve this?
That lingering question fuels our understanding of Colm, with Gleeson delivering a composed yet compelling portrayal of the character. He tries to act tough around Pádraic, but they inevitably come back to one another with light glimpses of their past friendship shining through. It’s a rather tragic performance from Gleeson, who consistently wants to distance himself from Pádraic, with his former friend attaching himself further to him.
One scene where they open up to themselves is one of the most powerful of the year because Pádraic can’t seem to keep his mouth shut, and Colm has no choice but to listen and realize that maybe he has been harsh on someone whom he considered a friend. But Pádraic makes a fatal mistake and leads the movie to its impactful third act, which may prove divisive for some. But after many sequences in which the film would stay in cyclical beats of Pádraic trying to convince Colm to become his friend again, I found the ending surprisingly more profound and direct than initially imagined. And that’s partly due to Farrell and Gleeson’s emotional impact during its final moments, making their rivalry feel as authentic as possible.
Supporting players, which include Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan, are also excellent but are far underused. Keoghan is one of the film’s best parts, but his character gets minimal development compared to Gleeson and Farrell. The same can be said for Condon, who is utterly magnificent as Siobhán but isn’t the movie as much as the two leads. Finally, I would’ve appreciated it if McDonagh had developed Pádraic’s relationship with her sister as much as he does for his friendship with Colm.
But the film’s core remains a compelling watch, and cinematographer Ben Davis beautifully shoots it. I may have appreciated the movie more had I not seen a mouse running around the cinema during a pivotal scene (for moviegoers who attend the Cineplex Odeon Forum & IMAX + VIP, this is something to think about), and being entirely thwarted by the idea of rodents invading the theater (apparently infestations have worsened as a direct result of the COVID lockdown in Montreal, but I’m no expert on that matter). However, I still managed to enjoy most of The Banshees of Inisherin.
While some characters needed more development, McDonagh’s film remains a powerful dark comedy that isn’t afraid to explore how friendships begin and end, with two outstanding performances from Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who are two of the finest actors we have right now. Their dedication to their craft and respective characters in this movie is unparalleled, and both deserve recognition for two of the best performances they’ve ever given. So don’t be surprised if this is nominated for many awards.
The Banshees of Inisherin is now playing in theatres everywhere.