ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Nominated for eight Oscars “The Banshees of Inisherin,” is Martin McDonagh’s latest project that examines friendship, morality, and death. This is the second film of McDonagh’s where Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star beside one another with the first being “In Bruges,” a 2008 comedy crime film for which McDonagh was nominated for best writing. Possibly the most notable of McDonagh’s work is “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” starring Frances McDormand, earning seven Oscar nominations, winning two of them in 2018. Despite the high-quality acting, and wit displayed in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” I searched for the point and thought the whole story could have been avoided if the two men had left one another alone.
All four main characters Colin Farrell (Pádraic), Brendan Gleeson, (Colum), Kerry Condon (Siobhán), and Berry Keoghan (Dominic) are nominated for Oscars this year after each of them display a different but well-done performance in “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Already winning a 2023 Golden Globe for best actor, Colin Farrell guides us through the story as a simple-minded milk farmer named Pádraic on the island of Inisherin. The story is set up nicely as both Pádraic and the audience try to figure out why Pádraic’s best friend Colum doesn’t want to be his friend anymore.
The audience is immediately connected to Pádraic as his confusion is felt through the screen. Farrell’s portrayal of distress is meant to draw empathy from the audience but is soon lost as we question Pádraic’s actions. Gleeson who plays Colum provides the best depiction of a mean, depressed, and selfish man anyone could. Regardless of this, Colum is a harsh, unlikeable character that I found boring and immature. Irish actress Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s sister Siobhán is the voice of reason throughout the film. She displays a truthful performance as a sister who cares deeply for her brother. Condon provides the lack of patience the audience has while the two men fight over what seems like nothing. I enjoyed her presence on the screen as she appeared to be the only person on Inisherin who thought about things other than what happens on Inisherin.
Our comedic relief and loving character Dominic played by Berry Keoghan is an abusive policeman’s son and a good friend of Pádraic. Having watched Keoghan in “Eternals,” as an arrogant superhero, his quirky and simple character in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” is quite the difference. What I believe each actor had in common through their characters is their comedic timing and delivery. I appreciated the humor that distracts from the otherwise discomforting and depressing tone of the film.
I wish I could say the story matched its acting performances but I’m not sure I can. As mentioned previously the film begins with a good setup and catches the audience immediately. As we progress through the story, it all becomes a bit strange and somewhat underdeveloped leading to unanswered questions. Since the title is “The Banshees of Inisherin,” I want to clarify what a banshee is. According to Merriam-Webster, a banshee is a female spirit in Gaelic folklore whose appearance or wailing warns a family that one of them will soon die. Our banshee is evident in the film as we see a grim old woman dressed in black named Mrs. McCormick. She often lurks near the main characters throughout the film, keeping the audience wondering who will soon die. She does not wail or make much noise but is more of an observer. Banshees are later mentioned by Colum in the film hinting to the theme. I think there is strong symbolism here but missed the mark on emphasizing it enough throughout the film.
I did appreciate the parallel between the Irish Civil War occurring on the mainland and the “civil war” happening on Inisherin. The characters voice their disapproval of the war leading to a hypocritic theme. The film shows how much everyone is in everyone else’s business and the short time it takes for people to learn of drama. Immaturity between friends sparks an irritating feeling as we watch hoping they can come to a civil agreement. In accordance with the time period, the display of Irish island life and Irish slang aims to be what I can only guess as accurate in the 1920s. For example, it took a minute to figure out what Pádraic meant when he wonders if he and Colum are “rowing,” we quickly learn “rowing,” is Irish slang for fighting or arguing. This type of slang continues throughout the film presenting an authentic Irish story.
Ultimately, I found this film to be about morality. Is it wrong for Colum to not want to be friends with Pádraic anymore without good reason? Is it right to want to leave Inisherin? I commend McDonagh for his ability to curate such thought in his audience and characters. Pádraic, seen as a kind and dim man, is transformed from doing what’s right and nice to retaliating and bitterness. Colum remains unchanged and I would say somewhat underdeveloped as a character. We see his despair and little insight into his actions but nothing clear on why he does what he does or where it stems from. We think he wants to leave a legacy and learn more about his purpose in life, but that theory is debunked when we see the drastic actions Colum takes. Seeing the pair in such disagreement, it was hard to think they were ever friends. Disturbing moments and impulsive actions by the two characters keep curiosity evident as we anticipate something terrible that’s going to happen to one or both of them. The way things end is unsatisfying and puzzling, with certain events almost thrown in there for no reason. I finish the film with more questions rather than clarification, a common feeling throughout the movie.
McDonagh takes an unsettling theme of death symbolized by a banshee and pairs it with a conflicting story of morality and relationships. I would be surprised if this film wins anything other than the acting nominations due to its muddled and underwhelming story. I refrained from looking heavily into the meaning of this film because I wanted to make an unswayed opinion which was hard due to the misunderstanding I felt at the end. Witty remarks and satisfying acting allowed for a tolerable watch but overall, this film was not my cup of tea.
House Rating: 2/5
If you liked this film, check out “Seven Psychopaths,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “In Bruges,” “Ingrid Goes West,” “The Lobster.” The black comedy “The Banshees of Inisherin,” is available on HBO and in select theaters.