The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN

The Banshees of Inisherin review
A lifelong friendship between two men is brought to an abrupt end.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Martin McDonagh

Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan, Kerry Condon, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny

The Banshees of Inisherin poster

When it was announced that English filmmaker Martin McDonagh was set to make a movie called The Banshees of Inisherin, the entire island of Ireland let out a collective groan. Hadn't his brother, John Michael, punished us enough with The Guard and Calvary? Was Martin set to portray rural Ireland in the same simplistic manner as his take on rural America with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? Would he follow his brother's lead and portray the Irish as a bunch of gombeens? We are a bunch of gombeens, but that's for us to say, not some English bloke, as if his own country doesn't have enough issues of its own.

The Banshees of Inisherin review

I took my seat at the press screening of The Banshees of Inisherin prepared to get very annoyed very quickly, but any fears I had were dismissed within about five minutes. Sure, this is another of the McDonagh boys portraying us Irish as a bunch of gombeens, but the difference here is that it's an accurate portrayal. Unlike the cartoon Paddywackery of his brother's Irish set movies, Martin's take on Ireland suggests he does indeed know a thing or two about the Irish psyche.

Set on the fictional west coast island of Inisherin, the film is centred on the breakdown of a lifelong friendship between Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson). One afternoon the former calls to the latter's home for their usual trip to the local pub, but Colm ignores him, sitting quietly smoking while Padraic raps on his door and windows. Later the two meet and Colm blanks Padraic. Eventually Colm reveals that he's decided he doesn't have time to be friends with Padraic anymore. He wants to devote his remaining years to composing tunes on his fiddle, in the hopes that he'll leave behind some sort of legacy, and he also finds Padraic a bit of a dullard.

The Banshees of Inisherin review

The Banshees of Inisherin takes place during the Irish Civil War, and some have surmised that the feud between Padraic and Colm is analogous to that conflict. I can't say I saw it that way, as to do so would be to reduce a very complex conflict to a simple falling out, plus McDonagh's version of the Irish Civil War seems more inspired by its larger American cousin, with cannon fire heard from the mainland. Rather the dispute between Colm and Padraic feels like McDonagh's commentary on our current culture war, which is ostensibly about right versus left, but is really more about the cultured versus the uncultured. The cultured dismiss the uncultured as a bunch of ignorant deplorables who refuse to learn about pronouns, while the uncultured see the cultured as a lunatic fringe of over-educated intellectuals. Neither has any interest in examining why the other may not share their views. Colm, who is as close to middle class as this milieu can boast, represents the cultured; he makes a living teaching music to visiting students, and so has time to devote his life to high-minded activities. Padraic is a working class farmer, committed to the land and his animals; patronisingly called one of "life's good guys," he enjoys the simple things in life. Colm can't understand Padraic's simple mentality, and Padraic can't fathom why someone wouldn't share his view of life. I don't think it's an accident that the only unflawed character in the film is Padraic's angelic sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon), who acts as a go-between in the conflict between the two stubborn men. Siobhan sees both men's sides of the argument and tries to find a way for them to reconcile. She's ultimately broken by their lack of give and take and simply advises Padraic to keep away from Colm, especially when Colm threatens to cut off a finger every time Padraic attempts to engage with him.

McDonagh has crafted an inspired piece of tragi-comedy, as tragic as it is comic. It's beautifully played, with Farrell delivering what might be his finest performance to date. Miscast by Hollywood early on in his career as a conventional leading man, Farrell has settled into something between leading man and character actor, and is arguably more suited to the latter despite his good looks. In recent years he's become one of the screen's most sympathetic performers, and there are some moments here that are genuinely heartbreaking. Condon, an actress who has always impressed in minor parts, is given a role worthy of her talents here and leaves an indelible mark on the viewer (after my screening there were many questions of "Where do I know the sister from?" from attendees). You might even argue that the film is really Siobhan's story, as it becomes not so much about whether Colm and Padraic will reconcile but rather if Siobhan can get away from this damn island and live her own life. Barry Keoghan gets the film's biggest laughs as Dominic, the island's idiot, while Sheila Flitton is suitably banshee-like as the island's version of the sort of prophets of doom once played by Maria Ouspenskaya.

The Banshees of Inisherin review

The movie's title is also the name of a fiddle piece Colm composes. Colm confesses the title is meaningless, but that he likes the "double sh" sound. This moment comes off as McDonagh's sly wink to an Irish audience accustomed to seeing their country portrayed in romantic terms through misty foreign eyes. There's nothing romantic about McDonagh's film, but unlike those of his brother, it's never cruel or cynical, simply an honest, observant take on how messed up we all are, whether Irish or not.

The Banshees of Inisherin
 is in UK/ROI cinemas from October 21st.

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