Ever since he made his feature film debut in 2008 with In Bruges, writer/director Martin McDonagh has cemented himself as one of the best writers of dialogue in the world. In fact, people forget that he actually won an Oscar in 2006 for the short film Six Shooter, also starring Brendan Gleeson, and probably should have two more to his name for his work on In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. So it should be a surprise to no one that his latest film, The Banshees of Inisherin, is just as darkly hilarious and tender as we’ve come to expect.
This is one of my most anticipated movies for the year. In addition to being a fan of McDonagh’s previous work, it reunites Gleeson and Colin Farrell, features rising star Barry Keoghan, and a premise that was simple but unique enough to know that McDonagh was going to knock this out of the park. The film tells the story of Padraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson), two men living on a remote Irish island whose lifelong friendship comes to an end when Colm decides he no longer likes Padraic. It’s childish yet powerful and what follows is a hilarious film about friendship, family, legacy, manners, and addressing one’s own character flaws. In typical McDonagh fashion, the humor is darkly silly, filled with A+ cursing, and filled with plenty of subtle gore.
What makes this film so great mirrors McDonagh’s previous work: great writing and great acting. Farrell gives one of the best performances of his career as Padraic, who completely pulls off playing a well-meaning commoner desperately needing to be liked by others. It’s a role that’s quietly silly yet heartbreaking at points. Gleeson is perfectly cast in his role as Colm, an aging man who wants to lose himself in his art and music so that he will be remembered after he’s gone. Hilariously, his solution to this is to separate himself from dullards such as Padraic. Barry Keoghan also shines as Dominic, the local idiot, though I felt his character was a bit forced at times as many of his scenes, while still hilarious, often detract from the main storyline. However the real scene stealer here is Kerry Condon as Siobhan, Padraic’s intellectual sister who longs for a life beyond the dullness of Inisherin. Her and Farrell’s scenes, particularly the juxtaposition between the way each sibling carries themselves, are a perfect blend of family bickering and genuine care for one another.
As far as flaws go, it’s not a perfect film but they are few and far between. The two hour run time could probably shave off 10 or 15 minutes, particularly leading up to the final act. Again, Dominic’s scenes can feel forced at points but Keoghan is so good it almost makes up for how it can take away from the flow of the story. I wouldn’t say the film is as purely funny as something like In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths but the entire supporting cast nails the bulk of their scenes.
I’m going to start diving into Oscar predictions in the next few weeks but I fully expect this film to be front and center in several major categories. I’d say it’s a lock for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Farrell), Best Supporting Actress (Condon), and at least one Best Supporting Actor (definitely Gleeson and possibly Keoghan) nomination. McDonagh should be in there for Best Director but that is essentially a race to catch Steven Spielberg at this point and it may squeak into Best Editing. Even if all those nominations work out (and they very well could) I don’t know if it will win anything but Condon or Gleeson probably have the best chances.
This is one of the great films of the year and I fully expect this to be in my year-end Top 10. It’s darkly funny but isn’t nearly as brooding as some of McDonagh’s previous work. Part of my love for this also stems from one of my favorite directors delivering once again and every actor is at their absolute best. Part of me also just really wants to go to Ireland now (the scenery is beautiful on the island) and grab a pint.