Despite the initially strange combination of dark humour mixed with deep somberness, The Banshees of Inisherin manages to come out as a “fecking” good movie. While it was certainly an unusual mix of genres, I found that the more I watched it, the more I accepted its strangeness and grew to really lean into its offbeat comedy. Starring the reunion of Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson since their film In Bruges (2008), the two light up the movie with their fantastic chemistry (or should I say “anti-chemistry” in this case?). The two shine brightly as the leads, but they’re also complimented quite nicely by wonderful performances from the supporting characters played by Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan.
[Please note there will be spoilers in this review; read at your own discretion]
If you haven’t heard already, The Banshees of Inisherin has received critical acclaim since its release and has received several big Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor/Actress. I remember reading many positive reviews and comments when the film first premiered at a film festival earlier last year, and since then, I’ve been interested in seeing what it was all about. I mean, with all that positive buzz, how could I not? You’re probably wondering what my thoughts on the film are so here they are: I personally enjoyed it and can understand why critics have raved about it. BUT, what I will say is, I definitely don’t think this film is one that will work for everyone.
The Banshees of Inisherin is the type of film that feels incredibly thought-provoking and introspective; we can see things as they are, or we can try to explore the deeper, hidden themes and values behind the characters’ motives and actions. While I personally enjoy films that require more thought and mulling over, I know a lot of people who only enjoy movies that are plain and simple – what you get is what you get. So while the film worked for me, I can see how this might be more of a hit or miss kind of film for the general public. Because while the film does progress rather slowly and is driven mainly by character dialogue rather than action, I was intrigued by the premise and what the outcome would be between these two sudden enemies.
The film starts off on a rather curious note as we’re kind of just thrown immediately into the heat of things. The audience learns right away that two longtime best friends, Colm (played by Gleeson) and Pádraic (played by Farrell), are facing a dispute of sorts – Colm no longer wishes to be friends. You get no immediate explanation, no reasoning, and we’re just sort of left there wondering what in the world could’ve happened between the two. While The Banshees of Inisherin begins with this interesting altercation, as the film moves forward, you slowly begin to realize that it’s much deeper than this random, singular argument. Every character is dealing with some sort of festering sadness, and it eventually becomes all-consuming.
The dynamic between Colm and Pádraic was particularly fascinating to explore because their palpable disconnect made it hard to believe they were ever friends at all. As Colm becomes swallowed by his desire to be remembered, being lost in his existential crisis causes him to lose sight of what’s important to begin with. When he cuts off all his fingers on his left hand simply to get back at Pádraic, it was almost as if the film was arguing his desire was futile – how can he make music to be remembered by if he can no longer play with one hand? I remember feeling a growing frustration as I watched Colm pointlessly (and disgustingly) cut off his fingers because what was the point of it anyway? While The Banshees of Inisherin dabbles into some big picture questions about existence and permanence, perhaps the answer the film is trying to make is that none of that really matters in the end anyway.
But the film was only able to succeed as much as it did thanks to the performances of Farrell and Gleeson. There really isn’t much to the plot at all, in fact, it was almost as if we were just following everyday people around and getting a peek into their lives. It was definitely up to Farrell and Gleeson to deliver convincing and genuine performances, and thankfully, they succeeded. I felt myself being drawn in to their complicated relationship, but also to the island as a whole.
While the townspeople were all rather eccentric and had distinct personalities, there was this constant bleak and grim atmosphere that seemed to consume the entire island. I experienced this feeling of emptiness and greyness with Siobhán (played by Condon) the most – while she was a considerably lively and snappy character, I couldn’t shake this sadness that seemed to grow within her. It felt as if what she was feeling deep down inside was secretly how everyone on this island was feeling too. It was the desire of wanting something more that seemed to haunt all the characters, Colm wanting to find purpose, Siobhán wanting a new life, Pádraic wanting to escape loneliness, and Dominic (played by Keoghan) wanting companionship.
What surprised me the most about The Banshees of Inisherin was definitely how funny it was. It’s not the kind of “laugh out loud” humour that you would get out of a comedy film, but its witty and snarky remarks from the characters were enough to put a smile on my face. I definitely enjoyed the execution of this film and overall, I felt it was very thoughtfully and carefully done. Sure it’s not for everyone, but for the people who did enjoy it (like myself), I’m sure we all shared a general appreciation for the themes explored. I thought Farrell and Gleeson were great together, and while I personally don’t have them marked as the winners for their respective Academy nominations, I still think their performances carried the film. With all that being said, I’ve decided to give The Banshees of Inisherin a 7.5/10. Though a little slow and dreary in its progression, it’s a unique, thought-provoking watch I would recommend for those interested in this genre of film.
I definitely laughed out loud a lot in this one.
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I stopped at the spoiler warning bc I’m going to watch this soon. Looking forward to the dark humor duo once again. Did you like it as much as In Bruges?
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Oooh, excited for you to watch it! Would love to hear your thoughts on it afterwards 🙂
And I did! They’re definitely a great dynamic duo and they have such excellent chemistry. This film really thrives from their performances together 😀