The Banshees of Inisherin | movie review
Two guys, one pub.
Movie summary: Two lifelong friends find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, with alarming consequences for both of them. (IMDb)
The Banshees of Inisherin is in the main a very sad movie about very sad people, and it also tragic, funny and - in a couple of places - heart-warming and sweet. In other words, it pretty effectively captures what life in general can be like, especially given the time period the story is set in, which is during the Irish Civil War. Much like this movie, that also involved people who were friends becoming antagonistic towards each other and escalating towards tragic ends. Hey, do you think there's a parallel there?
You can very much take the relationship and ending thereof between Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) as analogous to those events, which features in the background as gunfire being heard over the water, but for these two men the reason for the dispute is a little more farcical than the more serious political bloodshed happening on the mainland.
Colm's abrupt decision to end his friendship with Pádraic utterly the baffles the latter, with the former saying that he's bored of wasting his life doing nothing but chatting about... nothing in the pub, intending to leave at least one great piece of music behind and threatening to cut off a finger each time Pádraic talks to him. The fact that the initial blood-letting is self-harming shouldn't be lost on the comparison to the civil war either.
We spend most of the movie with Pádraic and Colin Farrell is just excellent in the role - add this to his unrecognisable turn as the Penguin in The Batman and it shows just how much he really highlighted his range and talent in 2022. You do feel for Pádraic, who is more confused than anything, but he can also be exasperating in his desire to interact with Colm when he should just let it go.
It does lead to a lot of the humour in The Banshees of Inisherin, with Pádraic's attempts to rekindle the relationship with Colm not only making the audience wonder what he's doing, but the other characters in the movie too. The humour is very character-driven, so don't go in expecting too many jokes, and it certainly isn't as absurd or outright funny as In Bruges, but it's not trying to be - it walks that perfect tightrope of becoming a little awkward to watch, but also arresting to see unfold.
While all this is going on between the two men as things slowly escalate out of hand, the subplot of Pádraic's sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), growing more and more unhappy with her life is bubbling away in the background and having to deal with the men on the island finally pushes her into making a choice that results in a lot more happiness for her, even if not for those around her and you genuinely feel delighted that she's gotten out of the way of the lunacy that dominated her life for so long.
She also provides a great contrast for Colm, who always remains friendly towards her, but it's telling that she doesn't really view him all that positively and even corrects him when he tries to sound ambitious about his musical aspirations, revealing to the audience that maybe he isn't as intelligent or high-minded a person as he clearly views himself to be.
I have to say that I don't think The Banshees of Inisherin will be for everyone because it is a very sad and often very bleak movie, with the always scene-stealing Barry Keoghan having a story of his own that ends in tragedy too. The characters will make you laugh on a semi-regular basis with their interactions with each other, but it doesn't change the fact that the story does not end well for the majority of them.
As one last thing, I will say that I can imagine this movie is going to sky-rocket Ireland's tourism industry for anyone who watches it, because this film is absolutely gorgeous and makes the Emerald Isle look like one hell of a place to visit, with vast expanses of green often bathed in glorious sunshine. Strangely enough, these often breath-taking vistas never feel at odds or detract from the dark nature of the film itself.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a wonderful movie filled with a cast delivering wonderful performances in a dark story set against some gorgeous scenery. It's not going to be for everyone, as the story is fairly sombre from the start and only gets darker and darker, but there's enough humour to keep most people interested in watching what is a masterclass from everyone involved.