It starts off small. One tiny slight leads to another. Neither side wants to cede ground and, before you know it, it’s all-out war. In a small and personal way, that’s what Oscar-winning writer-director’s Martin McDonagh’s (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI) latest film, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, is all about.
Not much ever goes on in the sleepy (fictional) island of Inisherin, which sits just off the west coast of Ireland. The time is 1923 and while the occasional boom of artillery fire can be heard coming from the mainland, the country’s civil war is far from the minds of the people who live here. They just content themselves with herding and meeting every afternoon at the local pub for a pint of Guinness. That’s been the situation for lifelong friends Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson, TRESPASS AGAINST US) and Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell, THIRTEEN LIVES; THE LOBSTER) until, one day, it’s not. Colm has decided he doesn’t want to be friends with Pádraic anymore and the news sends Pádraic reeling. The younger man just can’t understand why and the more he tries to reconcile with Colm, the worse their relationship gets. The rest of the town is surprised by the news too, but they’re more accepting of the new norm. That doesn’t stop Pádraic from driving everyone crazy though, including his long-suffering sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon, THREE BILLBOARDS) and the village idiot, Dominic Kearney (Barry Keoghan, THE BATMAN; ETERNALS), both of whom have their own problems to deal with.
McDonagh has done it again, writing and directing a brilliant story about disagreements and how easily they can spin out of control. Reuniting the two stars from his 2008 dark comedy, IN BRUGES, was genius too. Farrell and Gleeson have wonderful chemistry together, and both bring tremendous humour and pathos to what is, essentially, an absurd situation. Audiences will find it hard to pick a side in this war, and perhaps that’s the point. Yes, Pádraic is as dull as dishwater but Colm’s commitment to ending their friendship, while it is somewhat understandable, is rather extreme.
With Farrell’s recent win at the Golden Globes, it looks like it’s going to be a two-horse race between him and Brendan Fraser (THE WHALE) for the Best Actor Oscar. Condon and Keoghan may also receive Oscar nominations and, if so, they would be well deserved. If anyone will be able to pry the Best Supporting Actor Oscar out of Ke Huy Quan’s (EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE) hands, it will be Keoghan. McDonagh may also be taking home an Oscar or two, as he’ll probably cop nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Picture. His competition will probably come from the Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), who wrote and directed EEAAO.
There’s lots to love about THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN, which is why it was my third favourite film of 2022. Filled with vividly rendered characters, deliciously rich Irishisms like “rowing” (as in “having a row with someone”), “gom” (fool) and “fecking” (does that one need an explanation?) and captivating performances all around, it’s a total winner!
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN opens in Hong Kong on Thursday (January 26th) with very limited distribution. If you miss seeing it on the big screen, which would be too bad, fear not as it will head to Disney+ in mid-March, if not sooner. In the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland, it’s already available on the streaming service.
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