The Banshees of Inisherin review: A dark, funny fable
Ivan Radford | On 22, Dec 2022
Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan
“Nobody from the 17th century was remembered for being nice.” Those are the words of Colm (Brendan Gleeson) in The Banshees of Inisherin, as he struggles to reconcile his aspirations of being a musician of note with his small, humdrum life on the titular island. And so, in an effort to commit to focusing on his craft, he decides to stop spending time with his mate, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell). “Did I do something wrong?” asks the hurt friend. “I just don’t like you no more,” comes the blunt reply.
There’s a painful simplicity to the resulting rift between them, and Martin McDonagh is wonderfully at home in that stripped-down, raw sadness. Reunited with his In Bruges stars, there’s a familiar vibe to McDonagh’s slow-burn existential tragicomedy, one that finds humour in the bleakest – and angriest – of circumstances.
Brendan Gleeson is brilliantly downbeat as Colm, a walking slab of melancholy whose craggy features carry a weary desperation that his life might be meaningless. He’s at once a hulking presence and a vulnerable, wounded soul. Colin Farrell, meanwhile, delivers possibly the best performance of his career as the hopelessly earnest Pádraic, whose well-meaning commitment to his friend only makes the situation worse.
The more he tries to talk to Colm, the more Colm threatens to do something horrific, and McDonagh’s moving tale finds its strength in us knowing that such threats aren’t idle – even as we spend time with Pádraic’s sincere sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), and the heartbreakingly doting Dominic (Barry Keoghan at his most Barry Keoghan), there’s no amount of heart that can offset the ominous dread brewing beneath the circumstance.
In the background, the Irish Civil War is entering its last stages, which makes this feel more of a companion piece to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri than In Bruges. Amid the senseless grudge that builds and builds is the knowledge that the ensuing violence is ultimately fruitless and self-destructive. Nobody will remember The Banshees of Inisherin for being nice, but its darkly funny – and deeply heart-breaking – rumination on masculinity and loneliness will certainly linger in your brain.