‘Banshees’ is as Dark as it is Hilarious
You’ve probably heard of the Hatfields & McCoys and the antics that have made them part of pop culture lore for 150+ years. While that real life feud is more well known, I doubt very highly that it’s as funny (or hilarious) as the sparring Súilleabháins and Dohertys that take center stage in writer/director Martin McDonagh’s latest film ‘The Banshees of Inisherin.’
Set against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, on the fictional island of Inisherin, ‘Banshees …’ is the story of Pádraic Súilleabháin (Collin Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson), bickering friends whose drama becomes the talk of their small village.
Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin.’ (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)
Once best of friends and regular drinking buddies, Colm has decided that he no longer has time in his life for Pádraic and refuses to give anyone a reason why. Pádraic, thinking Colm is just in a bad mood, tries to smooth things over with his old friend … to no avail.
Relegated to spending time with his bookworm sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), the village idiot, Dominic (Barry Keoghan), and his faithful pet donkey, Jenny, Pádraic continues making overtures to Colm in hopes they can rebuild what they once had. Colm, determined to keep their friendship in the past, begins taking increasingly drastic measures to get his point across to Pádraic.
Eventually, those measures sink in and Pádraic is compelled to escalate the feud to levels from which there’s no turning back.
As mentioned in my headline, ‘Banshees …’ is wildly funny. The sparring between Pádraic and Colm is absolute gold, with Farrell and Gleeson playing off one another brilliantly. The accents and 1920s era dialogue simply add to the fun. And while they’re very much in smaller supporting roles, Condon’s portrayal of the intelligent, somewhat uptight, caged bird sister is highly entertaining and adds a layer of realism to the tale, and Keoghan brings the simple, but sort of endearing Dominic to life, adding some much-needed levity.
Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin.’ (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)
As ‘Banshees …’ progresses, that need for that levity becomes more and more evident.
The Pádraic-Colm feud quickly escalates from avoidance to verbal sparring to random acts of physical violence that are downright evil. It’s dark and twisted, and yet somehow doesn’t feel at all out of place or surprising (beyond the first time, anyway). Perhaps that says more about me than anything. The darkness isn’t only limited to our main characters though. With the exception of Siobhán, there’s very few characters here that don’t have dark secrets or terrible traits that come to light throughout.
Generally, when I leave the theater really liking a movie, my thoughts on it have changed (usually diminished) by the time I gather my thoughts on it. That, however, is not the case with ‘Banshees …’. In fact, now a couple of weeks on from seeing it, there’s nothing I can think of that I dislike about it. The story and dialogue are brilliant and engaging, the acting is outstanding, and the cinematography of Ben Davis is absolutely off the charts.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a must see, especially for those that try to see all of the Best Picture fare before Oscar time.
★★★★★ of ★★★★★