Photo credit: Courtesy of TIFF.
A parable of civil war set on a fictional island village just west of Ireland in the 1920s, The Banshees of Inisherin reunites In Bruges collaborators Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Gleeson in another fantastically dark and funny film. One afternoon, Pádraic (Farrell) discovers that his best friend and drinking buddy Colm (Gleeson) no longer likes him and wants never to speak to him again. This shocks the small town villagers who begin to gossip and speculate over the minor drama between the two men that soon escalates to devastating levels. Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan round out the sterling cast.
McDonagh mines great humour from the absurdity of the premise — what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? Pádraic, as the unstoppable force, won’t leave the immovable Colm alone, even as other villagers and his sensible sister Siobhan (Condon) plead with him to stop. It is a true delight to witness Farrell and Gleeson sharing the screen and a new, prickly dynamic that grows more and more antagonistic as the film progresses. Pádraic’s plaintive musings and descent into depression over their changed relationship are buoyed by the beautiful pastoral vistas and well-loved farm animals around him.
There is also a tremendous amount of humour gleaned from the ultra-small town Irishness of the characters, from their lilting turns of phrases and the rhythms of repeated lines as they echo each other, like a hive mind of small town perspective. The audience at my screening laughed uproariously and often at the facial expressions of the weathered characters and perfectly delivered dialogue. Keoghan is excellent as a young, eager, unsettling dullard who follows Pádraic around like a lost puppy. The script is without an ounce of fat.
McDonagh elegantly draws parallels between Pádraic and Colm’s conflict with the far more serious one in happening on the mainland. Gunshots can be heard across the water dividing the island from the rest of the world, which characters remark upon but largely ignore out of ignorance and apathy. The island’s sole policeman brags that he is being called in as extra support during an execution but does not know who is executing who — IRA or Free State — he is just excited to get paid to watch an execution.
The film’s turn toward extreme violence, although telegraphed well in advance, is brutally shocking and genuinely horrifying. It is presented effectively with sounds and visuals that made me actually jump in my seat and drew loud gasps from the audience. The well-calibrated combination of beautiful cinematography and music, extreme humour and horror, and brilliant performances make Banshees the best and most accessible film so far by the already much-lauded McDonagh.
Ratings (out of 5):
Overall Average: 4.5