REVIEW: The Banshees of Inisherin

Martin McDonagh’s latest film is a dark and bleak comedy but always compelling to watch thanks to the engaging central performances from Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

How would you feel if someone decided that they didn’t like you anymore and stopped talking to you with seemingly no reason at all? This is the starting point for Martin McDonagh’s quiet, understated but still as compellingly dark as you would expect from his previous work either for film or the theatre.

Padraic and Colm have been friends for a long time, both living on the secluded Irish Island Inisherin, against the background of the Irish Civil War in the 1920’s – rumblings of which add further tension to this story. Each day at 2 o’clock the goofy but likeable Padraic calls for Colm so they can go to the pub together – however, this all changes when the somewhat brusque Colm abruptly tells him that he no longer wants to be his friend. What starts as a simple case of Padraic wanting to discover what has changed between them, soon takes a darker turn as resentment and anger builds – leading both of them to take extreme action to make their feelings clear.

It is certainly a brooding film, laced with a fabulous darkly comical script that perfectly enhances the themes of male wounded pride and friendships that turn toxic all too easily. Matin McDonagh’s film is distinctive because it slowly ramps up the tension between the two men that then begins to affect the dynamic in the small community that is filled with gossip and need for news. All of the comedy found in the film is used to enhance the feelings of pain and anguish that is intriguing to watch unfold – particularly in one confrontational scene in which Padraic’s frustration and hurt really begins to overspill leading to some uncomfortable revelations .The simplicity of the story and the focus on a select number of characters ensures the films focus throughout and as a director McDonagh manages to draw out strong performances from all of the cast that will hopefully see many of them nominated for awards.

Reuniting Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson (who first appeared on screen together in the film In Bruges), the dynamic between the pair works really well – highlighting the striking contrasts between the characters brilliantly. Colin Farrell in particular delivers an almost heartbreaking performance as his loneliness and despair threaten to overwhelm him, particularly when life on the island soon becomes too much for his sister Siobhan (a fabulous performance from Kerry Condon) leading him to find comfort in the animals around him. The way in which he captures Padriac’s suffering is quiet and thoughtful, while his ability to capture the darker side to his character is compelling to watch. In contrast, Brendan Gleeson as Colm is extremely reserved and rough around the edges but it is a performance that has great detail and depth – I particularly enjoyed the scene in which he goes to confession – showing a great sense of dry humour. But it should also be said, another stand out performance comes from Barry Keoghan as the slightly dimwitted but well intentioned Dominic who has problems at home with his arrogant father. Keoghan gives great nuance to his performance that uncovers many different aspects to his character’s personality.

Yes it is a dark comedy, but it is also on many levels profoundly moving to watch unfold – the performances, the script and the way in which it has been filmed and put together makes it feel intimate and painful. By being understated, it is a film that knows how to pack a punch in all the right places .

By Emma Clarendon

The Banshees of Inisherin is out in cinemas now.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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