The Banshees of Inisherin | Review


Having traversed L.A., Bruges and Ebbing, Missouri, in his first three films, Martin McDonagh’s fourth finds him on greener soil and can’t help but wear the intimate feel of a homecoming. The Banshees of Inisherin sees the London-born, Galloway-bred director return to at long lost Ireland. Or, rather, to lush island metaphor just off the coastal mainland. Inisherin’s literal meaning is ‘the Ireland island’. This is a desperately sad film, blackly comical and surprisingly tough. With so much to say, McDonaugh’s refusal to rush is a marvel. That his cast excel within the woe is but a bonus.

Not merely a homecoming, Inisherin marks the long time coming reunion of McDonaugh with his In Bruges compatriots: Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Fourteen years have lapsed since the pair last shared screen time. It might as well have been a heartbeat. As lifelong friends and partners in ale, Pádraic Súilleabháin – doe eyed, dim witted – and Colm Doherty – thoughtful, musically inclined – Farrell and Gleeson share an easy and achingly believable chemistry. At two o’clock each day, the former knocks up the latter to accompany him to their local. When Colm one day decides to cut Pádraic from his life, the immediate fallout is all too honest in execution. It’s a fracturing with ramifications across the island. A bond torn that should never have broken.

Mediating the rupture, Kerry Condon is superb as Pádraic’s earthier, sharper sister Siobhán. Even as she seeks to protect her brother, Siobhán holds a candle for a better life on the mainland and fears for the isolation threatening Pádraic if she goes. One man and his beloved donkey. He has hapless romantic Dominic (Barry Keoghan, terrific) in his corner at least. A gobshite if ever there were one, on learning of Colm’a actions, Dominic remarks: ‘what is he, twelve?’ He has his own sufferance. As his body is beaten at home by his Gardaí father, Dominic’s heart is dealt daily blows by unrequited love. Such brutality is nothing on that which is to come.

The Banshees of Inisherin bears all the stylisation of what might be deemed a folksy and deeply melancholic danse macabre. A mediation on the most common of human fears: to be forgotten. Yet, even as things veer to the absurd, McDonagh’s script can’t help but route his narrative in universal concepts and a blisteringly funny understanding of the core workings beneath all human interaction. Aphorisms litter a raft of gorgeous dialogue, spoken by individuals whose very character nuances ring profoundly true. It’s as though we’ve always known these souls. Perhaps we have.

Farrell’s work to this end is beautiful. Of all on Inisherin, Pádraic has perhaps the loosest grasp on the flows at work around him but this in itself is born to a wealth of pain beneath Farrell’s eyes. When he takes matters into his own hands, a situation beyond anyone’s control escalates. Microcosmic resonance exists here in relation to the Civil War raging mere miles away – ‘a bad do’. Stubbornness and failings of mutual perspective drive the conflict both to a point of no return and place where the original dispersion is long forgotten.

Ben Davis – returning to McDonagh from the bright lights of Hollywood – shoots all with deceptive warmth and an acute sense for the beauty of Pádraic and Colm’s homeland surroundings. Combined with a rather lovely score by Carter Burwell, Davis work seems almost to seep McDonagh’s film in an aura of mythos. As things wind to a close, it’s no conclusion. This is but a chapter in the ongoing story of human foibles. What a joy to dabble in its waters while the current lasts.



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