THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN | ©2022 Searchlight Pictures

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN | ©2022 Searchlight Pictures

Rating: R
Stars: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Pat Shortt, Gary Lydon
Writer: Martin McDonagh
Director: Martin McDonagh
Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Release Date: October 21, 2022

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is a dark but oddly warm comic tragedy. Set in 1923 on a small island of the coast of Ireland, it features the kinds of eccentric, sharply-drawn characters we’ve come to expect from writer/director Martin McDonagh.

It should be noted, for those who care, that there are no actual banshees in THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN. There are ill portents, to be sure, some death, and some blasts of gore, but no actual wailing spirits. Those are for other types of movies.

Internecine warfare is raging on the Irish mainland – we see plumes of smoke when something is blown up there – but all seems tranquil in the little village on Inisherin, where one day blends into the next, and everyone can pretty well expect what will happen.

This changes when Colm (Brendan Gleeson) tells Padraig (Colin Farrell) abruptly that their friendship is over. Colm is a bit older, Padraig a bit younger, but the two have been inseparable as long as anyone can remember. It’s the not Padraig has done anything, either, Colm explains when the other man presses the issue. Colm just finds Padraig boring.

Padraig is devastated, and everyone else is somewhere between consternated and bemused. Padraig isn’t perhaps the brightest fellow, even on underpopulated Inisherin, but he’s got a good heart.

Or at least, Padraig starts with a good heart. As his feelings get more and more hurt, Padraig finds he’s got some deviousness within him. But he also doesn’t want to grasp the depth of Colm’s resolve.

In one way, THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is like a tale of divorce where there’s been no infidelity, just one partner growing indifferent to the other. Padraig’s sense of loss certainly runs deep.

But this isn’t a marriage, where any set of rules apply, and this is where the unpredictability comes in. The humor is derived mainly from McDonagh’s blunt, clever dialogue and the idiosyncrasies of his people.

Colm is insensitive but not cruel; Padraig acquires both dignity and rage. Farrell and Gleeson, paired so wonderfully in McDonagh’s 2008 IN BRUGES, interact with each other expertly here. Watching them act together is like hearing a pair of master musicians perform a duet.

Kerry Condon contributes strongly to the proceedings as Padraig’s intellectually-inclined sister, and Barry Keoghan is excellent as a young man best described as poorly socialized.

The scenery also informs the mood greatly, with the islands of Inishmore and Achill standing in for the fictional Inisherin.

With the ever-present fighting in the background, McDonagh seems to be making some sort of a comment on Irish-upon-Irish carnage. However, it would take someone much better versed in Irish history than this reviewer is to determine how well the parallel works.

What anybody can tell from THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is that the human behavior, wounded feelings and stubbornness all come off as just weird enough to feel real.

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