Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell return to the Martin McDonagh fold in The Banshees of Inisherin. Dropping down through the clouds onto the verdant plots of a fictional isle below, Inisherin seems like a place where rainbows not only start but also finish. However, there’s a cloud on this horizon and it’s Gleeson’s Colm.
Sat inside his cottage, Colm has decided he doesn’t want to be friends with his best buddy Pádraic any more (as played by Colin Farrell). No real reason is offered. It’s just that he doesn’t fancy it anymore.
Ignoring him in the pub, passing him on the country lane, Colm doesn’t want any further contact with Pádraic and the first half of the movie continues much in that vein. As people start to talk, Pádraic can’t understand why he’s been dumped or how he should handle Colm’s rejection. So, Colm resorts to more drastic measures to get his point across. Each time Pádraic talks to him, he’ll cut off one of his fingers… all of which brings us into the territory of McDonagh’s earlier movie, Calvary.
... The Banshees of Inisherin is a sumptuous, downbeat shaggy dog story with real teeth - and fingers.
Similarly jet black in its humour and also in no rush to overplay its hand, The Banshees of Inisherin is another movie awash with acting talent. The reunited Colin Farrell and Brendan are predictably pitch-perfect and Barry Keoghan is similarly excellent as Dominic, a wastrel lad with half an idea and doubly dangerous with it. However, for my money, it is Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s sister Siobhán who emerges as the sanest one on the island. Torn between a life beyond the rocks of Inisherin and being a safety valve for her combustible brother, it’s her departure that really sets the film alight.
So, by seemingly owning a seam of cinema where the whimsical effortlessly rubs shoulders with the macabre, writer-director Martin McDonagh’s latest is not for the squeamish. With even less screen time given over to laughter than in his previous films, tragic animal subplots and its pre-advertised angst, The Banshees of Inisherin still might leave you a little raw if you are easily triggered.
That said, set within the magisterial views of the Emerald Isle, McDonagh’s take on island misery is a contagious one. Focussing on a wholly avoidable tragedy taken to its logical conclusion, The Banshees of Inisherin’s real touchstone here is Macbeth. Complete with a witch-like neighbour who ominously predicts the blows yet to fall, it is all too late for its characters to change course. Like the Scottish play, once a chain of events has started, its players are committed to their paths and nothing but nothing will sway them. Nor should it do you, if you’re thinking about buying a ticket.
For in the end, The Banshees of Inisherin is a sumptuous, downbeat shaggy dog story with real teeth – and fingers.