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The Banshees of Inisherin Review: Fantastic Fest 2022

Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges is a distinct kind of hitman movie, one with a lot on its mind, a moral clarity in a world of nefarious criminals, and with terrific performances by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. All three return for The Banshees of Inisherin, but while many of the components are the same, Banshees has a different agenda in mind.

The story, like many of its characters, is deceptively simple, but runs far deeper than it appears on the surface, which is indicative of McDonagh’s films. The characters McDonagh uses to fill his stories, like In Bruges or Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, are all emotional but they do not always work in their own best interests and their motivations become clearer over time.

Banshees of Inisherin Review: Fantastic Fest 2022

The Banshees of Inisherin centers around the relationship between Padraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who live off the small island of Inisherin off the coast of Ireland in 1923. The Irish Civil War is winding down, but the citizens of Inisherin can still hear the guns throughout the days and nights and wonder what the point of all of it is.

The people of Inisherin all live routine lives, going about their business, spending their evenings at the pub, going to Church on Sunday – that is, until one morning Colm announces to Padraic that he wants nothing more to do with Padraic and that they should stop talking to each other. Padraic is hurt and confused, but Colm is insistent – they can no longer be friends.

Banshees of Inisherin Review

This throws Padraic’s life into disarray, makes life difficult for Padraic’s sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon), who has plans of her own, and even young Dominic (Barry Keoghan) doesn’t understand why Colm is behaving the way he is.

“He doesn’t want to be friends anymore? What, is he like twelve?” All Inisherin wonders at what’s happening, and as Padraic and Colm become enemies, the entire community becomes invested in how this will turn out.

The humor of The Banshees of Inisherin is all character-based, and as we learn more about the people in it we begin to understand why they make the decisions that they do, even as we know that those decisions aren’t always the best ones. While the story and the characters seem straightforward, there is a complexity and a bottomless well of emotion that is under the surface.

Farrell’s Padraic has a life that may lack ambition but that makes it no less intricate. Gleeson’s Colm is tired of living that life, and Padraic’s friendship is a reminder of roads not traveled. Padraic’s sister Siobhan has her own wants and needs, and when Colm distances himself from Padraic it stirs up her own ambitions – perhaps this quiet life isn’t what she wants after all.

Banshees of Inisherin Review

There’s a melancholy in The Banshees of Inisherin that hangs in the air – much like In Bruges, these are characters who have rich inner lives, even if outwardly they seem deceptively transparent. While The Banshees of Inisherin can go to dark places, especially in the film’s second half, we find ourselves empathetic and caring for these people, who all make bad choices, but we understand why they made them.

Colin Farrell has quietly amassed an impressive array of characters, and Padraic may be my favorite of all of them – as he goes through the stages of grief for his relationship with Colm, we sympathize with him, but we also sympathize with Colm, who Gleeson gives an indignation but also allows the audience to discover Colm’s motivations in their own time. They’re both wrong, but they’re also both right.

Like the film itself, Carter Burwell’s score seems uncomplicated on the surface, but hides a rich intricacy, and underscores the emotion well. This is a movie to savor, to sip at, to take the time to enjoy spending time with even if the characters don’t want to spend time with each other.

All four main performances are strong – this may be the best work Colin Farrell has ever done. When the world comes apart for Padraic, Farrell finds the inner maelstrom of an otherwise routine man and when it comes forth, it lays waste to everything in its path.

Gleeson puts Colm’s weariness into every movement and expression – this wouldn’t work if we also didn’t sympathize with Colm’s plight and Gleeson isn’t given long pieces of dialogue, instead using his body language to show us Colm’s malaise. Barry Keoghan gives probably my favorite performance of his – Dominic has struggles of his own, and when he sees Padraic and Colm’s friendship go south it seems to accentuate the deep loneliness of his own life, and it’s a sad, quiet performance.

Finally, Kerry Condon is wonderful as Siobhan, who wants more than this life can provide, and when she sees Colm behave the way he does it stirs something within her as well. Siobhan may have been born into this world, but she doesn’t have to live in it, and Condon fills Siobhan with clarity and ambition.

The Banshees of Inisherin‘s pleasures are subtle and contemplative, much like Martin McDonagh’s other work. These are movies you get to take with you when you leave. Unlike Padraic and Colm, I will be happy spending much time with The Banshees of Inisherin, allowing it to play in my mind. There’s nothing simple about this quiet film, even as the characters seem to be.

Often I wonder how I am perceived in the world, whether I am loved or merely tolerated. The Banshees of Inisherin is about that doubt and how it informs our lives, and it’s a film I’ll be thinking about for quite some time.

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN REVIEW SCORE: 9 OUT OF 10

Searchlight Pictures will release the film in theaters on October 21, 2022. The movie is rated R for language throughout, some violent content and brief graphic nudity.

Banshees of Inisherin Review

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