Release Date – 21st October 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 54 minutes, Director – Martin McDonagh
Pádraic (Colin Farrell) is left confused and isolated when lifelong friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) suddenly cuts off their friendship.
For those going into The Banshees Of Inisherin expecting In Bruges there’s a likelihood that you’re going to be disappointed. While reteaming lead actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson with writer-director Martin McDonagh it doesn’t strike the same dark coldness as the latter. The darkness of Banshees is much more subdued, held in the background of the main events and occasionally released in plosive bursts.
The Irish Civil War is unfolding on the mainland a short distance away from the fictional island of Inisherin. While not directly influencing the central events the occasional explosions add another layer of tension to the central broken relationship between long-time pub-mates Colm (Gleeson) and Pádraic (Farrell). We largely follow Pádraic in an increasingly confused, and frustrated, state as he tries to work out why Colm appears to have woken up one day and suddenly refused to talk to him. It’s an idea that he doesn’t seem to understand, even when the basics are put to him as it simply being “about one boring man leaving another man alone”.
As Farrell’s ‘simple man’ continues to try and communicate with his years-long best friend anger rises within Gleeson’s excellently performed character. He threatens consequences bringing in the film’s subtle darkness. Pushed through the wonderfully dead-pan nature with which a number of the one-liners and the conflictions of the central pairing are delivered. There are plenty of laughs to be had and many of them come down to the way the performances convey McDonagh’s screenplay. Not just the two leads but the strong supporting cast alongside them, including Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s suffering, caught-in-the-middle sister Siobhán and Barry Keoghan bringing in a number of chuckles with a very against-type performance.
While the setup of events may feel as if they could be played out on a stage – perhaps McDonagh’s past as a playwright coming through – as we explore more of the few locations around Inisherin, even if just the various paths and lanes, things open up and this initial feeling gradually fades away. Even amongst the fairly stripped-back course that the former friends find themselves on by showing a handful of backdrops throughout the nearly two hour course of the film, and perhaps even opening up to other supporting figures in and around the pub which everyone appears to frequent, things feel a bit more opened up and less stage-like.
The base idea of one friend refusing to talk to another is acknowledged as being rather childlike – “what is he twelve?” – however, for much of the run-time you truly believe that these are fully grown adults interacting, or rather failing to do so. It comes across in the darker elements which appear more as the film goes on and the tensions between the main duo rise. Bringing in comedy amongst the threats which hang in the background with reminders in key points such as the tone, style and structure of the overall piece. Mixing together tones which McDonagh has played with before while managing to feel like something different from him. Those going in expecting In Bruges won’t be met with that, but they should find an entertainingly subdued darkness between the two brilliantly performed leads.
The darkness of The Banshees Of Inisherin effectively lies in the background of the witty one-liners and dead-pan humour, all wonderfully delivered by McDonagh’s cast, particularly the two leads.