The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) Review
A GREAT CHARACTER STUDY AT
THE IMPASSE OF FRIENDSHIP
Friends are an important part of everyday life. The intrinsic and intangible ideas of having a platonic relationship with someone (as a camaraderie companion) is beneficial and healthy building block of life, which can result in a major impact on oneself. Essentially, good friendships are good for your health. They can be celebrated the joyous times and provide support during the turbulent ones, while also preventing isolation and loneliness. The bonds of friendships can be quite strong and an emotional tethering towards humanity and social connections. The downside, however, is that friendship can be hard to maintain, with sometimes the effort of putting oneself into such a relationship can be stressful, with additional baggage be tagged along as well. Yes, the enjoyment and comfort of friendship can provide is meaningful and can be rewarding, yet still can be quite taxing and could consume a large percentage of one’s free time. Thus, the ending of such relationship struggles is sometimes needed by cutting ties of an individual (or group) the serves determine and / or toxic to oneself. In truth, the practical management business of friendship is quite a sticky and complexed situation. Of course, Hollywood, given the amount of human drama that comes with friendship, has shined a light on such relationships throughout the decades by displaying different types of layered cinematic tales of friendships, including 1950’s All About Eve, 1987’s Can’t Buy Me Love, 1987’s Romey and Michele’s High School Reunion, 2017’s Girls Trip, 2019’s Booksmart, and 2019’s Good Boys just to name a few. Now, Searchlight Pictures and director Martin McDonagh present the latest film to tackle the tangled assessment of friendship with the film The Banshees of Inisherin. Does this movie find merit (and understanding) within this cinematic tale or does it falter within its ambiguity presentation?
Set in the twilight of the Irish Civil War in 1923, Padraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) is a simple Irishman, who lives with his sister, Siobhan (Kerry Cordon), spending his days waiting for his time to hit the village’s local pub and drink with his dear friend, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson). The pair have great friends for years, but now it seem to be coming to an end, with Colm rejecting Padraic’s company, telling the man to keep away, with their camaraderie relationship is over. Immediately, Padraic is confused and doesn’t take the new easily, trying to reconnect with Colm, also spending time with Dominic Kearney (Barry Keoghan), a younger man with base intellectual abilities. Befuddled and at lost, Padraic tries to make sense of the predicament that he’s been removed from, while also dealing with Siobhan, who’s fed up with her life in the mundane village and looking for opportunities elsewhere. As Padraic tries to get closer to his once close friend, he’s warned that with any future contact, Colm would be cutting of one of his fingers…. a promise that Colm intends to keep.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, the dealings and understanding of friendships is one of the essential building blocks of life, showcasing the relationship with others and the social connections that we many throughout the course of our existence. Naturally, the ideals of friendship is always a complicated one, but it does have merits in the long game. Meaningful empathy towards others, the bonds of shared experiences, the support of both the good and bad times…. it’s all there and helps build towards a healthy life. Of course, I have friends (some more than others) and I’ve shared (and invested) time to several individuals, who can (in turn) invested time to me. A sort of “mutual understanding” as with most friendships. Perhaps the sad part of this realization (to me, at least) is that the friendship that we sometimes make don’t last forever. Times change, people change, and through the circumstances of individual lives can have such friendships drift apart, without no apparent reason of such trying. Like many, some of my friends drifted away over time and, while I bear them no ill-will and wish them the best of luck in their lives, still wish for their companionship to have continued further. I guess, like life itself, some people come into your story for a time and then leave, only for them to be there temporarily. Yet, I still do cherish the time with them. To wrap this up, friendship is an essential part of the “human condition” of living life, which can be a tricky thing to maintain, but important piece of life’s ever changing flow of ups and downs.
This brings me back to talking about The Banshees of Inisherin, a 2022 drama film and the latest film to explore the complex nature of friendship. To be honest, I really didn’t hear much about this movie when it was first announced. I didn’t really make any type of waves until the film was released at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 5th, 2022. The film received a lot of praise during the viewing, which sent ripples through the internet and a lot of “word of mouth” on the palpable nature of this particular project. Soon enough, the internet was flooded with advance reviews of the movie and how much it was slam dunk contender for best movie of 2022. Given that reception, I was quite curious to see the movie. I don’t remember actually seeing the film’s movie trailers (and I don’t think I’ve seeing it to this day), but remember seeing the TV spots promo for it, with a lot of critical praise from the movie. It did definitely further intrigue my interest to see the movie, so I planned on seeing it. Unfortunately, my local movie theaters weren’t showing it, so I had to wait to see when it came out on HBO Max several months later. Further still, even after seeing the movie (via streaming), my schedule was still a little busy with work and my back catalogue of reviews that needed to get done. So, my review for The Banshees of Inisherin had to wait a little bit. Now, as I’m still playing “catch up” with those reviews, I’m finally ready to share my personal thoughts on this critically acclaimed film. And what did I think of it? Well, I actually liked it and the reviews / praise for this movie were right. Despite a few nuances and minor narrative substances throughout, The Banshees of Inisherin is solidly dramatic film with gorgeous cinematics and engaging tale from its cast and script that examines the parting of friendship and the changing of times. It’s not the most original nor creatively done movie that has come out of late, but it is (perhaps) the most humanized feature film that many could easily relate to.
The Banshees of Inisherin is directed by Martin McDonagh, who previously directed such films as In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Given his past endeavors of directing such features that gives context on character study and inane quirks, McDonagh seems like the best person for the job in helming such a project that is to examine two particular characters that are at odds with each other. True, McDonagh approach the movie with a sense of his past works, which is more of a reflection of the human condition and how a relationship between two friends and reach a sort of impasse within a blink of an eye. McDonagh way of capturing those subtle moments of character reflection / expression within his characters and certainly shows in the feature, with The Banshees of Inisherin providing an interesting dilemma with its two main leads. Of course, the circumstances of what lead to this fallout is the film’s “bread and butter” as McDonagh, who also pulls “double duty” on the film as a the writer, weaves together a complexed narrative that is quite basic at best. I know that sounds like one of those oxymorons statement, but the relationship and friendship with individuals can be a very trying and delicate understanding of which McDonagh does so in spades and generates a very moving and gut-wrenching story of the end of friendship, internal protest, and civil disobedience (to a certain degree). Also, McDonagh has always utilized a kind of “dark comedy” with his endeavors, interjecting a subtle dose of humor into a situation that is either surreal or relatively serious. Naturally, he does that in this movie, with some playful moments to help counterbalance the feature’s gravitas of emotion and drama. There isn’t a whole lot of what the film’s marketing campaign was promoted on, but there is enough levity to make this whole situation have its “comedy” scenes and do work with McDonagh’s touch of quirkiness.
Of course, one of the most interesting aspects found in the movie is in the metaphors and symbolism that McDonagh evokes throughout the movie in its entirety. As mentioned, The Banshees of Inisherin is deeply rooted in human emotion, yet the feud between Padraic and Colm carries volume and weight and mirrors the conflict in the Irish Civil War. To me, this is to be most fantasticated aspect that the movie has to offer, especially since the film doesn’t really show the fighting being fought, with only military artillery firing off in the distance and some idle talk amongst people from town. Naturally, the reflection of the Provisional Government of Ireland and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) is clearly visible in the human manifestation of these two men, with Padraic depicting a sense of conformity and reasonable peace, while Colm displays the idea of change and wanting to be a bit more harsh in the practice. Like the war itself, escalation happens in the strife amongst Padraic and Colm’s dissolvement of their friendship with blood, sacrifice, and the loss of innocence in the crosshairs of the feud. Thus, the colliding of such forces are perfectly imagined in the movie, with McDonagh depicting a allegory of tale of two strong willed individuals (believing that they themselves are right) and failing to find a peace to resolve their conflict, waging a personal war that is a stark reminder of the nation’s civil war was winding down. All in all, I felt that McDonagh did quite the exceptional job in mastering such a very simplistic narrative that feels large, poignant, and meaningful root in human emotion / understanding within its composition; finding The Banshees of Inisherin to be a fantastic character study of individuals and to be the most ambitious and memorable film that McDonagh produced.
In the presentation category, The Banshees of Inisherin is a gorgeous and beautiful film to behold through the cinematic lens and offers up plenty of character through its background aesthetics and visual nuances. Perhaps the most interesting is the whole production setting that plays to the main story background in the picture, with the rolling Irish countryside and worn-down buildings feels like something out of an ancient folklore / fairy tale of Irish legend. Yet, everything is not whimsical or colorful as layout of whole island of Inisherin is rather painted with a muted coloring with a sense of the dread mundane that has permeated the citizens, who are stuck in rather timeless loop of their own comings and goings. Still, what’s presented is quite the beautiful look to (from a cinematic dramatic lens) that breathes life in realism, yet still speaks to the magnificent in filmmaking storytelling. Thus, the feature’s “behind the scenes” team, including Mark Tildsley (production designs), Michael Standish (set decorations), Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh (costume designs), and Tim Devine Christine Fitzgerald, Paul Ghirardani, Virginia Reina (art direction) for their efforts in making the film’s world come alive with such grit and majestic to behold. In addition, the cinematography work by Ben Davis is exceptional throughout the movie, with sweeping and wide angle shots that showcase the film’s setting that looks mysterious and foreboding as well as amazing to see. Plus, even some of the interior dialogue moments are also well represented through Davis’s lens of making things cinematic feel. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Carter Burwell, is good throughout the entire motion picture, with the usage of melodies of Irish influences as well as some dramatic poise.
Unfortunately, there are a few negative points of criticisms that I personal felt held the feature back from reaching an unscathed cinematic greatness. How so? Well, for starters, the story’s narrative is rather rudimentary and simplistic. I do get it that was probably the main crux reason behind the movie with a more “barebones” narrative of which the film can chart a course with a more character driven story rather than a plot driven. That being said, there not a whole lot that actually happens in the movie. Yes, there are some disagreements and fighting going on, but it all feels quite….I don’t know….a little bit too simplistic in nature. This creates a tad loss of substance with several side stories, including the characters of Siobhan and Dominic, with both individuals sharing some great and interesting roles in the feature. I think a little bit more finesse with the film’s script would’ve been beneficial to make for a slightly more well-rounded narrative experience. In addition, I felt that the movie could’ve utilized a beefier substance to examine certain aspects of the story, including the deprived nature of Colm not wanting to deal with his emotions and depression and rather mutilated himself. There’s a lot more that could’ve been said about, especially since the movie could’ve been a whole lot shorter if his character would’ve opened up and explained his feelings towards Padraic in a more direct way. I guess that McDonagh would going for the tried-and-true method of the old saying “pride comes before the fall”.
From the director’s standpoint of things, the movie is also a tad slow in some areas. Of course, I somewhat figured that was going to be the case, especially since this was going to be more of a character driven narrative and how the first ten or so minutes played out. So, I figured it was going to be like this. That being said, the pacing of the feature could’ve been tighter, with McDonagh lingering a tad too much on certain scenes for more artistic nuances. Naturally, that plays into the cinematography efforts that made remarked on earlier, but the movie does feel like its being stretched out far too much for such a basic and simple premise, which probably could’ve been shortened maybe ten or so minutes. Lastly, I felt that the ending was a little bit too vague and ambiguous. Yes, I do somewhat get what McDonagh was trying to go for in the movie’s conclusion, but I felt like there could’ve been more of a defining ending to the tale of Padraic and Colm.
The cast in The Banshees of Inisherin is solid all the way around, with a relatively small cast of ensemble acting talents for this picture, yet those players give such a tremendous and charismatic performances in their own respective roles throughout. Leading the charge in the movie as the film’s two main characters (protagonist and antagonist) are actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as Padraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty. Farrell, who is known for his roles in Alexander, The Lobster, and In Bruges, has been quite an actor and have played a wide variety roles throughout his career, with some being antagonist and other having some sort of human quality to him. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Farrell gives a very stirring and heartfelt performance in the film, with his portrayal of Padraic Súilleabháin to be exceedingly sympathetic and a man who is trying to figure out his current circumstances. It’s that earnest and gullibility naivety that makes the character so memorable and Farrell completely nails it beautifully. The character of Padraic is an intriguing person, who seems lost when his friendship with Colm wanes and it shows how much of a loss soul he is when things go awry. There’s a certain sadness to it all, which makes it quite easy to see from his point of things (for the most part….as some might argue that he’s the villain of the movie and not Colm). Overall, Farrell is quite compelling to watch whenever he’s on-screen and creates a very humanize character in his performance as Padraic.
Coinciding with that, Gleeson, who is known for his roles in Calvary, In Bruges, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, also gives another moving performance in his career, with his portrayal of Colm Doherty have presence that is filled with a stoic nature of stubbornness and of a complexed individual. True, the movie sort of positions him as the villain of the movie (to a certain degree), yet McDonagh imbues Colm with a sense of pride and looking towards the future / legacy that he will leave behind; one of which he can’t see when he consumes a lot of time with Padraic. So, there is some understanding to his position. On the other hand, Colm could’ve easily pacified his old friend in a much better way than just being too cryptic and could’ve explained in a more direct approach. This sort of creates a little bit of problematic area, especially since the movie’s script could’ve gone a little bit deeper in the Colm’s inner mind. Regardless of that, Gleeson is superb in the movie and gives Colm a very multilayered character to play around with. Collectively, both Farrell and Gleeson, who have previously collaborated together on In Bruges, are quite magnetic towards each other and one can easily tell their on-screen chemistry for each other is quite genuine, especially when there character’s friendship is reaching a crisis point. Basically, you definitely feel the human relationship amongst these men and both actors deliver some wonderful character performances.
For the supporting cast, the movie does feature two strong represented characters that have their own particular cinematic light of interest, with actress Kerry Condon and actor Barry Keoghan giving some memorable performance in their respective roles. Condon, known for her roles in Rome, Better Call Saul, and Captain America: Civil War, might not be quite the household name as Farrell and Gleeson, but her talents quite palpable throughout her career, with The Banshees of Inisherin probably being her best role she’s played. How so? Well, there’s a type of endearing quality that Condon brings to the character of Siobhan, Padraic’s sister of which the two lived together. She’s tough and firm, yet still able to care for Padraic in a sympathetic way. As for her character arc, she does get something of an interest point across of where Siobhan wants to leave the mundane life on the island of Inisherin and longs to seek opportunities. This, of course, plays an instrumental part in the narrative, especially when examine the metaphorical imagery of wanting to change / leave the status quo of the changeless for a better life. Condon imbues those traits (and then some) in her portrayal of Siobhan, with pent up frustration of the situation that her brother and Colm are in and the longing for something better. Like the story, there’s a human quality to Siobhan and I think Condon nails perfectly.
Similarly, Keoghan, who is known for his roles in Dunkirk, Eternals, and The Green Knight, is somewhat of a rising star of late by appearing in more mainstream movies and much larger roles, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not newcomer to acting. On the contrary, Keoghan is quite the actor and his performance in The Banshees of Inisherin is (like Condon) probably the best in his character. True enough, the character of Dominic, a rather simpleton man on the island of Inisherin, doesn’t sound the quite interesting individual, but indeed he is. There’s a somewhat simplistic nature to him, one that is likeable and endearing to watch every time he’s on screen, but, like Siobhan, is caught in the middle of the vocal feuding between Padraic and Colm, and there is a sadness to it all, with sympathetic complexity towards Dominic. Heck, there is one particular scene that is heartbreaking to watch and shows the dichotomy that such a character is faced with. Keoghan is fully committed to the role and helps build upon the earnest (and honest) portrayal of Dominic’s plight. There’s both a little humor and dramatic heart in Keoghan’s performance and, while he’s only a supporting character in the movie, definitely demonstrates solid and memorable role in the picture.
The rest of the cast, including actor Gary Lydon (The Guard and War Horse) as Dominic’s law enforcement father Garda Peadar Kearney, actor Pat Shortt (The Guard and Killinaskully) as publican Jonjo Devine, actress Shelia Flitton (This Is My Father and Help!) as Mrs. McCormick, actress Brid Ni Neachtain (Dominion Creek and An Crisis) as postmistress Mrs. O’Riordan, actor Jon Kenny (Les Misérables and Wolfwalkers) as Gerry, actor Aaron Monaghan (Assassin’s Creed and The Foreigner) as Declan, and actor David Pearse (The Foreigner and The Secret) as the local priest, are delegated to minor supporting players in the movie. While these particular characters don’t exactly develop beyond their initial setup and introduction personas, but (of course) the movie’s narrative is more focused on its main players, so that’s to be expected. Still, I found the acting talents for these particular individual characters to be spot on throughout, despite their limited screen time. Lastly, I can forget to mention that the character of Jenny the Donkey, Padraic’s faithful companion donkey, who will surely melt your heart in the film and how close a bond that he shares with her.
A once long and lasting friendship quickly reaches its end amongst two men, who are at a crossroads within their lives and in the relationship camaraderie in the movie The Banshees of Inisherin. Director Martin McDonagh’s latest film takes a very simplistic (yet very human and layered) scenario amongst two particular individuals and their personal turmoil that comes out when their friendship reaches its end, with the lives of several people caught in the middle. While some of the feature’s moments are a bit nuance than substance and while certain contexts aren’t fully drawn out to their fullest extent, the movie manages to cultivate something quite unique within its storytelling, especially in McDonagh’s direction, an intriguing mixture of some light comedy and heartbreak emotion, a great presentation, amazing cinematography, a good score, and a terrific cast across the board, especially in Farrell, Gleeson, Condon, and Keoghan. Personally, I liked this movie. It was definitely an interesting watch, one that I did not expect to live as much as I did. As stated, I have to give such a commendable job to McDonagh for delivering a film that holds such emotional weight that is just as easy to follow, yet so emotional raw in its own complexity. A sort of juxtaposition of such different ideals and examinations. Plus, I really felt that the acting was so good in the movie. Thus, my recommendation for this picture would be “highly recommended”, especially for those cinephiles out there that are looking for a well-deserved film such as this as well as those who are looking for a good motion picture that deals with such human character understanding. Something that I think that we all can relate to. In the end, The Banshees of Inisherin is sobering tale of humanity characteristics study and the impasse of friendship that’s heartfelt and gripped in tender emotion.
4.4 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: October 21st, 2022
Reviewed On: March 12th, 2023
The Banshees of Inisherin is 109 minutes long and is rated R for language throughout, some violent content and brief graphic nudity