Hype is building ahead of awards season and here is a film that will surely be a contender. With The Banshees Of Inisherin, director Martin McDonagh returns five years on from his Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, with one of the best films of the year.
It’s set in the 1920s on a small town off the coast of Ireland, where the slow pace of life feels at odds with the civil war happening on the mainland. Pádraic (Colin Farrell), a nice but dim farmer, looks forward to his afternoon chats at the pub with best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson). One day, he’s shocked to find that Colm simply doesn’t want to be friends anymore, and the small tiff begins to spirtal into a bitter and bloody feud.
Like Three Billboards…, the story blossoms when a small personal matter blows out of all proportion. It’s decidedly funnier than its predecessor, however, serving up clever humour to hook and cook you before the twists get you gasping.
McDonagh’s strength is the slow burn; he brings a lot of seemingly unrelated elements together in a way that knocks you from your seat. There’s also a topicality to the psychological turmoil unfolding: characters ponder legacy, art, and the merits of being nice without ever feeling dense. For a film set a century ago, it feels incredibly now.
Gleeson and Farrell have both worked with McDonagh before, most memorably in 2008’s In Bruges. These are different characters with a different dynamic, but the chemistry is still absolute magic. Gleeson gets the bigger laughs with Colm, a simmering pot of self-pity whose dismissal of his friend hides a deep-rooted fear of being forgotten. But it’s a tribute to both performances that your sympathies will likely shift several times before the end.
There are also wonderfully passionate supporting turns from Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s sister Siobhán and Barry Keoghan as village idiot Dominic.
A hilarious and dark morality tale, The Banshees of Inisherin makes a huge impression. Let’s hope its journey continues through Oscar season 2023.