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MOVIES: The Banshees of Inisherin - Review

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Martin McDonagh is a very gifted playwright and gives us maybe one of the most Irish films in years, on the back of his Oscar Nominee Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This film focuses around a small Irish town and a grudge between two men that forms when Brendan Gleeson’s Colm decides to stop being friends with Colin Farrell’s Padraic - and threatens to escalate to violence and death. 

The action is small scale, between two men and the breaking of brotherhood. The bluntness in the way that Colm decides to stop being friends with Padraic is felt like the cut of a sharp knife - Padraic wonders if they’ve been arguing, Colm just says he’s decided to move on. The film itself uses the friendship of both men or the lack thereof to explore toxic masculinity, when to let go and when not to - with piercing wit and dialogue that could only come from a playwright. But as someone as well versed in theatre as McDonagh, his feature craft is something to be desired as great as the cinematography is from Ben Davis, who escalates the grudge with the ugliness of the weather.

McDonagh’s film feels too crafted, too staged - everyone has near perfect dialogue and comes up with interactions that most would only think of on the way home from the conflict rather than in the middle of it. The heightened stupor almost feels telegraphed rather than natural - he lacks the subtlety needed to really elevate The Banshees of Inisherin into a masterpiece that it very nearly is - to the point where the reasoning behind the title has to be stated in the film as if we didn’t get it by that point. It focuses too much on the screenplay to the point where it feels like it overwhelms the other elements - it lacks the grit of his best work, In Bruges, but thankfully, is much better than Three Billboards and actually knows when to end and how to, boasting performances that are sure to receive some awards love.

This is Colin Farrell’s best role - he plays a man stricken with confusion and grief as the film tears down his reputation as the “nicest man in the village”, whilst Gleeson brings a sense of aloofness to the role. His character is more interested in being remembered and with that comes a small scale clash of personalities with the running theme of the film exploring the concept of remembrance beyond your lifetime - for art, or for friendship with those closest to you? Both are surrounded by impeccable performances from Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan - Keoghan plays that unhinged role that he always plays with a touch of sympathy really well, and Condon feels like the only actually smart character there - getting her own story arc that ultimately unfortunately just feels like a bookend to Padraic’s. The film is excessively focused around Padraic and Colm almost to a fault - it’s their movie, and The Banshees of Inisherin - for better or worse, tells their story. 

This is a film I’m in two minds about, good but not great - but as with most McDonagh, the more time removed from it will paint a true picture. As a character, screenplay heavy piece, it’s superb. I’d love to see this as a play, this film acting as a great commentary on the small-natured islanders vs those who seek to move beyond their borders and embrace society at large. Change is harder for some - and this film embraces it head on.

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