‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ Review: Sharp, Dark, and Poignant

Martin McDonagh seems to always be making movies that draw controversy, so if enjoying all of them gets me cancelled then so be it!

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is the latest film from writer/director Martin McDonagh, and reunites his “In Brudges” pair of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Set in 1923, the film follows two men who have their friendship abruptly end, and the fallout that ensues. Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan also star.

McDonagh only makes a film once every five years (his last being 2017’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), so when he does come out of seclusion it’s a treat. Essentially a darker Aaron Sorkin, his scripts feature rapid-fire dialogue and black humor, both of which I enjoy in my films. “Banshees” is one of, if not the, most “serious” film of McDonagh’s career to-date, but it’s still a feel-bad treat nevertheless.

Colin Farrell has had himself a decent year, most notably for his disappearance under a layer of Penguin makeup for “The Batman.” Here he plays a well-meaning farmer, one who enjoys his day-by-day life. Farrell wants to show those around him that he is not dull and more than simply “a nice guy,” and it’s a simple but very effective performance.

Brendan Gleeson, always appreciated but not always duly championed, is an aging man who calls off his friendship with Farrell because he wants to face his mortality and leave a lasting musical impression on the world. Gleeson and Farrell have some entertaining exchanges, and you instantly buy that the two have a history between them. I’d love to see a buddy-cop film with them, they continue to be a dynamic duo on the big screen.

I was also a fan of Kerry Condon, who plays Farrell’s sister. Loyal but head-strong, she is both entertaining and effective in her role; it would be great to see her get some awards talk come winter.

McDonagh’s scripts are always sharp and that’s no different here. Characters dryly repeat phrases back to one another, give smart aleck retorts, and manage to be existential without coming off as pretentious. At times the dialogue is so fast or the actors’ Irish accents are so thick that you’ll miss an exchange (Barry Keoghan, solid in a somewhat abstract role, is at times inaudible), but that’s more a fault of my American ears than the film itself (I joked to my friend after that this should’ve been the first all-English film to feature subtitles).

Aside from Keoghan’s character (who is in a totally different film than everyone else), there isn’t much I didn’t like about “Banshees.” Some may not be a fan of the ending (I liked the idea, especially upon reflection), and it’s certainly more of a day-in-the-life tale than a sprawling narrative.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is one of 2022’s better films (a lowbar to-date but an accomplishment nevertheless), and it’s nice to see McDonagh back in the saddle. Check this one out when you get a chance!

Critics Rating: 8/10

Searchlight Pictures

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