|for two fine central performances in a darkly comic, nihilistic bromance
|Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Barry Keoghan, Bríd Ní Neachtain, David Pearse, Gary Lydon, Jon Kenny, Kerry Condon, Pat Shortt, Sheila Flitton
|Ireland, UK, US
|21st October 2022
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Everyone knows everyone in the small Irish island community of Inisherin – in particular, everyone knows that Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) are best friends. But Colm is no longer speaking to Pádraic – and Pádraic can’t work out why.
When pushed to give a reason, Colm explains that he no longer likes Pádraic, because he finds him dull – and he hasn’t got time to waste with dull people.
This comes like a bolt out of the blue to Pádraic – is he dull? Is that even a reason to end a friendship? But when Pádraic tries to make-up with his former friend, Colm gives him the kind of ultimatum that will send shivers down anyone’s spine.
When Pádraic’s sister gets a job on the mainland, he’s given the choice – to start a new life with her, or to stay on Inisherin with his beloved pony.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Martin McDonagh knows how to tell a story. With films such as Three Billboards…, he’s shown he can tell simple but powerful tales, set in a real world that’s been knocked slightly off kilter. He also knows how to pick powerful stars to do justice to his ambitious work. He rose to prominence with the assistance of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in the viciously black comedy In Bruges, and now the terrible trio are back together for exactly what you’d expect from them; a nihilistic bromance.
On the one hand, The Banshees of Inisherin is a moving parable about friendship and loyalty – from the perspective of the hapless Pádraic at least. But on the other hand, from Colm’s side, it’s the tale of the most passive aggressive narcissist I can remember ever seeing on screen. It’s disturbing that anyone could turn against a friend so readily, violently and shamelessly – yet make it seem almost reasonable. It’s certainly the case that when friendships fail spectacularly, each party will have a different view of what’s gone wrong.
It’s a tough tightrope to walk, not least because it has to balance comedy – often very dark, obviously – with such an unsettling undercurrent of masochistic blackmail – softened by the stunning Irish coastline and the warmth of the animals.
The writing is tight, the performances are excellent, the production design and costumes immerse you in the period – but the narrative is so disturbing, it makes for a peculiarly uncomfortable watch, which leaves you unclear about just what Martin McDonagh is thinking. Is he trying to give us a message about relationships – or is he trying to have a little macabre fun, giving us a cautionary tale about not trying to second-guess what others to or say.