Emily Sheehy reviews Martin McDonagh’s latest film The Banshees of Inisherin.
If anyone has perfected the art of the tragicomedy, it is Martin McDonagh. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and McDonagh come together for the first time since 2008’s In Bruges to deliver the witty but tragic The Banshees of Inisherin. Set in 1923 on a fictional island off the coast of an Ireland in the midst of civil war, we witness the comedic and poignant dissolution of a friendship between Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) when one day Colm decides “I just don’t like ye no more”.
The chemistry between Farrell and Gleeson presents us with a uniquely Irish sense of humour with dark undertones, which we can see when Colm threatens to cut off his fingers if Pádraic ever speaks to him again. Both Farrell and Gleeson perform their roles brilliantly, alongside Kerry Condon (who plays Pádraic’s sister Siobhán) and Barry Keoghan’s character Dominic. This couldn’t be achieved without McDonagh’s talented screenplay and direction. Additionally, Carter Burwell’s score is the perfect accompaniment to the film, along with traditional Irish fiddle pieces performed by Gleeson himself.
With the advice of Siobhán and Dominic, Pádraic tries to reclaim his friendship with Colm, but to no avail. Pádraic is constantly told he is one of the nicest men on the island, but this isn’t enough for Colm to sustain a relationship with him. Pádraic’s desperation leads him to become mean, angry and bitter, which is highlighted by Dominic’s innocent and truthful nature.
For a film with a deceivingly simple plot of a man deciding not to talk to his friend, McDonagh presents us with a hilarious, captivating and melancholic tale.
The film highlights the dual romanticisation and boredom of life on small Irish islands. Foreign artists took a keen interest in islands such as the Blaskets as a site of great inspiration, as well as island natives like Peig Sayers. Although the islands have breathtaking landscapes, McDonagh emphasises the monotony, hardship and isolation that accompanies those who have made the island their permanent residence. Colm recognises that he wants to leave a legacy as a musician and draw from the rich culture of Ireland and its islands. Pádraic’s boring sensibility proves to be a barrier to this, who he considers to be a “dull” and cannot stand him talking about what he found in his “little donkey’s shite” for two hours. The Civil War is acknowledged every so often when we hear gunfire coming from the mainland, always too far out of reach but still lurking in the background. The unseen conflict adds to the tension between the two main characters, echoing the division between two former friends who must share a life together on Inisherin.
For a film with a deceivingly simple plot of a man deciding not to talk to his friend, McDonagh presents us with a hilarious, profound and melancholic tale. He is able to capture the human condition through the breakdown of this friendship and the tragic effects it has. It is no surprise that audiences are lauding this film and predicting many nominations (if not wins) at the next awards season. I highly recommend you see The Banshees of Inisherin in the cinema while you can.