The Banshees of Inisherin review ★★★★★

5 mins read

The Banshees of Inisherin sees Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson reunite with director Martin McDonagh after 14 years since their cult classic In Bruges.

Their new film is set on the fictional island of Inisherin during the Irish Civil War and follows the breakup of a lifelong friendship between Farrell and Gleeson’s characters. 

In Bruges is one of my all time favourite films, I love all of McDonagh’s films and enjoy reading his plays just as much if not more, so it’s fair to say I had pretty high expectations for this film.

Fortunately for me The Banshees of Inisherin did not disappoint. It felt like a perfect culmination of McDonagh’s work. It has the strong and complex character work that his films are known for whilst also bringing in his unique Irish dialogue from his plays like the cripple of Inishmaan, culminating in what might be McDonagh’s strongest film in terms of balancing comedy and dark themes.

The film follows Colin Farrell’s character Padraic as he struggles to comprehend the end of his friendship with Gleeson’s character Colm who no longer wants anything to do with him. 

As with most of McDonagh’s characters, Padraic and Colm both have a simplistic complexity about them, their motivations are easy to understand yet there’s always something darker and tragic simmering from within. 

Colin Farrell as Padraic may be my favourite performance of the year. Farrell brings such a vulnerability to the character, you can always tell that he’s doubting himself and his actions just through his facial performance. It’s definitely a different type of character for Farrell but he completely owns the role and adds a relatability to the film.

Brendan Gleeson is also wonderful as Colm, a not so tortured artist going through a bit of a midlife crisis. Gleeson brings a lot of charm to the character; he makes a potentially unlikeable man a lot more understandable which certainly adds to the moral dilemma of the story.

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell. Image Credit: Searchlight Pictures

Perhaps the strongest aspect of the film is how it balances its comedic yet dark tone. The humour itself can be very dark and yet whilst it’s often very funny it can also leave you feeling horrible for the characters. For instance, I felt terrible about Padraic but at the same time I couldn’t help but laugh at how he consistently makes his own situation worse and worse. 

Speaking of which, the film does get very dark, in particular if you’re squeamish with blood and mutilation you may want to sit this one out… Although like I said, it’s still incredibly funny no matter how bleak it gets.

Not surprisingly, Ben Davis’ cinematography is amazing, with the Inishmore and Aran islands making for beautiful backdrops for the film. The framing and blocking was also really great, there was always a bit of a distance between where the characters were positioned, adding a really standoffish feel to the movie. 

Carter Burwell’s score was also very haunting and melancholy adding to the isolated feel of the island and characters.

Every department is at the top of their game which gives the film a grand scale even for such a small, isolated plot.

Overall I wouldn’t say I had any problems with the film, it feels like it knows exactly what story it wants to tell and it definitely succeeds at telling it.

It’s certainly a worthy successor to In Bruges but even if you’re not familiar with McDonagh’s other work, I’m sure you’ll still get something out of it. Whether it be laughs, tragedy, or just brilliant character work, the film truly succeeds in every field you would expect from Ireland’s greatest filmmaker.

So, if you’re looking for a tragic comedy to lighten up your Halloween then The Banshees of Inisherin is definitely worth a watch!

Featured Image Credit: Searchlight Pictures

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