In 1923, on a tiny remote island, just off the coast of Ireland. Two friends find themselves at odds. When one of them decides he doesn’t like the other anymore.
It’s as basic a premise as one can think of for contemporary storytelling. And in his wondrous, wonderful, and exquisitely contained mini-opera “The Banshees of Inisherin,” writer-director Martin McDonagh takes this straightforward premise and sets it ablaze, using it as a backdrop to explore the conflict in man, the nature of pride and spite, the significance of companionship, and the curious edges of the male ego.
It’s a darkly comic drama that packs an emotional gut punch, after emotional gut punch and consistently finds new ways to deliver brutal body blows.
After portraying hitmen in McDonagh’s 2008 cult classic “In Bruges,” Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reunited for the role of the men who are no longer friends when the film opens.
Like they do every day at 2:00 p.m., the unassuming Pádraic (Farrell) stops by Colm’s (Gleeson’s) beachside cottage to see if he wants to join him for a pint, at the local pub. But this time he’s snubbed by Colm. Later, he arrives, and Colm declines Pádraic’s offer to sit next to him. Pádraic, like the other patrons in the pub, is unable to comprehend just what is happening. The following day, Colm makes it very clear. He tells him, “I just don’t like you no more.” Did they have a drunken fight? Was it something he said? It’s not really that easy. Colm, who enjoys the arts and plays the fiddle. Has come to the realisation that Pádraic is boring. He’s sick of discussing the same issues, over and over. He just wants to be left alone.
Pádraic is gobsmacked to lose his closest friend, whilst Colm desperately seeks to leave some sort of musical legacy behind. Others like Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and Dominic (Barry Keoghan) are left to choose between picking up the pieces or looking out for themselves.
Condon and Keoghan absolutely shine in the film and steal every scene they’re in. Siobhán is easily the smartest person on the Island, confined by the attitudes of the era. Whilst Dominic is a deeply troubled character. Keoghan is a shoo-in for best supporting actor at the BAFTAs.
In lesser hands, Colm may seem unreasonable in his behaviour but Gleeson plays him with such world-weary depth, it’s impossible to dislike him. Farrell is also incredible as the bemused underdog, Pádraic.
It may not be as re-watchable as In Bruges, but The Banshees of Inisherin is a masterful exploration of the complications of male friendship. Undoubtedly one of the best films of the year.
The Banshees of Inisherin is out in the UK on October 21st.