'The Banshees of Inisherin' Takes the Wit of 'In Bruges' to Even Darker Places Directed by Martin McDonagh

Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan
'The Banshees of Inisherin' Takes the Wit of 'In Bruges' to Even Darker Places Directed by Martin McDonagh
Photo courtesy of TIFF
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The first 30 minutes or so of The Banshees of Inisherin recall the hilarious banter of Martin McDonagh, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson's last film together, In Bruges. Director and writer McDonagh once again presents sharp dialogue and dry Irish humour that is immensely crowd-pleasing and entertaining. However, to an even greater extent than In Bruges did, The Banshees of Inisherin becomes an incredibly dark film — that, somehow, McDonagh still manages to make amusing.

Gleeson and Farrell play old friends who live on the fictional island of Inisherin. Set in 1923, the Irish Civil War is in its final stand on the mainland, with explosions heard on the island daily. Pádraic (Farrell) calls on his buddy Colm (Gleeson) to head down to the local pub, as is their routine. But on this day, Colm isn't home. When Pádraic tracks Colm down at the pub, Pádraic is met by a guarded Colm who informs him, "I just don't like you anymore."

Pádraic, blindsided by this sudden rejection, refuses to accept that him and Colm are no longer friends and continues to pester him for an explanation and a reconciliation. Colm, steadfast in his desire not to waste away his life listening to Pádraic rattle on about nonsense, goes to gruesome lengths to show Pádraic that their friendship is over.

A film that seems simple on the surface opens the door to a wealth of existential discourse. McDonagh's talents as a complex writer are highlighted in the intimate dialogue between Colm and Pádraic, and between Pádraic and his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), and also in the film as a whole. McDonagh smoothly weaves together a film that can be appreciated on the ground but also from 1,000 miles in the air.

Performance-wise, Farrell turns in what is arguably a career-best performance. He's devastatingly vulnerable and naïve with such precise comedic timing it's a wonder why he messed around playing the likes of Alexander in his youth. Not to be outdone, Gleeson's presence is powerful and steadfast in a quiet role, and Barry Keoghan, who plays the village dim-wit, proves his strength among icons. But it's Kerry Condon who deserves the most praise. She plays Siobhán, a woman who desires for more from life and is the ultimate protector of Pádraic. Siobhán is the rational beating heart to the story — and to Pádraic — and Condon is incredibly moving and comical in her portrayal.

While Banshees may not receive the same universal praise as In Bruges did, it's a more thoughtful piece that skews more character-driven than plot-driven. McDonagh is one of today's great comedic writers, and he's found a band of actors who can bring his disturbing thoughts to life in a rather hard, jovial way. (Searchlight)