Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The Banshees of Inisherin - Review


Feuding is a human tradition, a little war that has sparked anything from bloody conflicts to petty squabbles, and yet, it remains inherently absurd. For director and writer Martin McDonagh, the central feud is a way to spark laughter and reflection upon obsession, niceness and loneliness, and eventually see these men descend so far into their battle that it’s hard to remember how it all even started. 

Off the coast of Ireland, on an isolated island, the longtime friendship of Pádraic and Colm comes to an end. Not because of any extenuating circumstances or tragedy, Colm has just become bored with Pádraic. Together with his sister Sibhán and the troubled young Dominic, Pádraic will do anything he can to salvage the relationship, even if it means disobeying Colm’s very strict, and bloody, ultimatum.

The setting of The Banshees of Inisherin perfectly sets the scene for this seemingly small, but immeasurably grim, feud. On an island as tiny as this, a small squabble, let alone a man threatening to sever his own fingers, is bound to consume the whispers and gossip that will inevitably travel along the stone pathways. Everyone has their own input, and it’s that tight nit community that makes the whole thing worse for the two characters at the center of it all. 

Those two men are played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, both delivering career best work. Farrell plays the nice guy, the one you want to root for, though his character is ultimately heartbreaking and lonely. He’s not the sharpest man, and he can’t fathom why Gleeson’s Colm wants to pursue his music so much, but when he makes a keen observation, it’s usually on the money, and always hilarious. Gleeson, on the other hand, is more thoughtful, with just a tinge of bitterness. He’s still compassionate, but he so desperately wants his peace that the he can’t wipe the disturbed look from his face when someone has the gall to interrupt it. 

The film is not just a comedy, it has quite a bit to say about humans and how their emotions can change with the wind. The line between love and hate is thin, and throughout every moment of The Banshees of Inisherin, one can see the moments of tenderness and compromise peek ever so slightly through. And in many ways, these moments, however fleeting, almost make the whole affair more painful, a reminder of what was and what continues to be lost with each passing day of this feud. 

As the calendar starts to wind down for 2022, the prestige, award-caliber movie season is finally upon us, and The Banshees of Inisherin delivers the first big contender of the year. Director and writer Martin McDonagh has crafted a film that’s merciless and morbid on the surface, but buried underneath is plenty of humor and a surprising amount of warmth.

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