cinema · LFF22

Film review: The Banshees of Inisherin

 Over a decade on since the trio collaborated on cult classic In Bruges, writer and director Martin McDonagh reunites with actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for his latest black comedy. The Banshees of Inisherin tells the tale of dairy farmer Pádraic (Farrell) and fiddle player Colm (Gleeson) who have an abrupt falling out after years of friendship. Reeling from the news that his old pal doesn’t like him anymore, Pádraic turns to his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and local idiot Dominic (Barry Keoghan) for support. Their row has repercussions across the small rural island where they live, and soon takes a very sinister turn.

 Set in 1923 while the Irish Civil War rages on within the mainland, the state of national unrest is a very apt backdrop to this intimate, microcosmic conflict. Of course, the catalyst and motivations are wildly different, but the exploration of how a senseless, stubborn conflict can spiral, bringing out the worst in good people, serves as an allegorical narrative to a degree.  Bleak but beautiful, tragic but hilarious, McDonagh’s complex script illustrates the melancholic despair of lives led and left without legacy, but it’s laced with his signature dry humour. A strange score from Carter Burwell works as a complimentary accompaniment to the offbeat style, heightening the idiosyncrasies but also adding substance to the stout-black overtones.

 The longstanding bond between the two leading men comes through in the central relationship between Pádraic and Colm. Their friendship, or lack thereof in the context of the story, has been purely circumstantial from one point-of-view and meaningful from the other, causing a compelling collision of mindsets. Farrell has the lion’s share of the emotional material, sharing pivotal, tenderly written moments with most of the key characters including his beloved donkey, Jenny. Putting the main plot aside, Condon and Keoghan share a brilliant standout scene towards the end that’ll tug on heartstrings. Both are magnificent in their supporting roles, full of nuance and vulnerability.

 Rich in texture, packed with laughs, and poignant in its macabre portrayal of a futile feud between allies, The Banshees of Inisherin is an accomplished piece of work. An absolute masterclass in tone, McDonagh pulls off a deft balancing act between comedy and tragedy.

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