As civil war rages in 1923 Ireland, an equally dangerous situation brews on a quaint island just off the coast: a man has suddenly decided he no longer wants to be friends with his best friend, and the banshees are going to start screaming.
From Martin McDonagh, the man behind the Oscar winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and In Bruges, which, depending on my mood and the weather on a given day, may be the most darkly funny movie of the 21st century, comes the darkly funny The Banshees of Inisherin, a story worthy of immense respect–even if it doesn’t quite earn my love.
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reunite (from In Bruges, in which Farrell played the annoying, dopey colleague of Gleeson), in which Farrell plays Padriac, the earnest albeit semi-dopey and slightly annoying former friend of Colm (Gleeson). Farrell is truly at the top of his game here, and by that he’s climbed to the top of the Oscar mountain and is shouting from the peak.. Though his character is seemingly simple, the role is anything but, demanding humor and heartbreak on a second by second basis. In fact, The Banshees of Inisherin is, in its most basic form, a depiction of poor Padriac’s heart being slowly ripped out of his body with a dull spoon. Farrell is simply fantastic.
But he’s not alone. Gleeson is great, too, while Kerry Condon turns heads as Siobhan. The scene stealer is Barry Keoghan, though, who plays the saddest and wisest village idiot ever put to screen. He’s a tragic character if you’ve ever seen one, and Keoghan plays him with gusto.
I’ll remember The Banshees of Inisherin for the acting more than anything else, but the movie is a rich, intelligent, and unpredictable comedy-drama that could stand amongst the year’s best (more on that in a moment). McDonagh has made a movie deserving of utmost respect, and I suspect the true cinephiles out there will scream their praises from the modest Irish hilltops.
Despite that, I didn’t love Banshees. For the first hour, I was heavily engaged, drawn in by McDonagh’s masterful screenplay, the subtly sharp humor, and performances. But in the movie’s second half I found myself checking the time more than once; the humor dissipates and the pace devolves to a slog.
In short, I got bored.
It’s a real shame, but I doubt McDonagh will lose any sleep over it even though he’s told me more than once he primarily made this movie for me. The Banshees of Inisherin will resonate strongly with a certain class of people, but it’s unlikely to click with mainstream audiences. That doesn’t make it any less good.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.