Philadelphia Film Festival Review: The Banshees of Inisherin

Philadelphia Film Festival Review: The Banshees of Inisherin

Colm doesn’t want to be friends with Pádraic anymore. No more popping down to the pub at two o’ clock, at least not together. No more long conversations about nothing. No more saying hi as they pass each other on the rocky paths of Inisherin. It’s a friendship no more, and Pádraic (Colin Farrell) couldn’t be more confused. He’s a nice guy! Why would Colm (Brendan Gleeson) suddenly decide to cut him out of his life, furthermore demanding that the two never again even speak?

Is it something he said while he was drunk? Is it because he’s dull? Is he dull? These are all concerns that plague Pádraic, a quiet, kind man who lives a simple life with his animals and his sister (Kerry Condon) in a cottage on the island of Inisherin.

The year is 1923, and the sound of explosions and gunfire often echo across the cliffs of Inisherin, leaving the denizens of the island simultaneously trapped and protected. Yes, the war keeps them isolated, but the isolation keeps them safe.

Safe from war. Not from each other.

Martin McDonagh’s latest bit of dramedy uses the chemistry struck up between Gleeson and Farrell in his 2008 comedy In Bruges, but does so with a softer hand, bringing to life a story about friendship, legacy, and the simple act of being kind. Instead of hitmen on holiday we have men at home — and home is a small, seemingly insignificant place. Like all of McDonagh’s work, it’s best to go in blind so as to let the escalating plot beats reveal themselves on their own terms. What starts with a cruelly curtailed friendship becomes a battle of confusion and ego that threatens to upend idyllic life on Inisherin.

The halcyon existence of Insiherians (word?) goes only so deep as the surface. As is standard for McDonagh stories, the current bout of upset is only a catalyst that unearths deeply held biases and grievances, making this odd period piece, at its heart, all about — say it with me — the human condition.

The Banshees of Inisherin is not as sneaky with its humor as it is with its drama, evoking consistent laughter ultimately interrupted by shocking dramatic developments (which, in turn, are often quite funny in their own right). But none of it works without the right actors to deliver the material, and if Brendan Fraser’s rumored Oscar-front-running performance in The Whale has any competition for a Best Actor win, it’s in Colin Farrell, whose Pádraic will break your heart, make you laugh, and then scare the shit out of you with a mere flick of his bushy eyebrows. It’s a career-best performance for him, and one that is surrounded by stellar work on all levels of production.

Shout out to Kerry Condon, the functional “straight man” in all of this, as well as Barry Keoghan, whose turn as the village idiot is as thoroughly realized as his surname is difficult to pronounce.

The Banshees of Inisherin is a surprising step-up from a cadre of talent already operating at a masterful level, and it’s one of the best movies of a year full of great ones.

Directed by Martin McDonagh

Written by Martin McDonagh

Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan

Rated R, 109 minutes

The Philadelphia Film Festival is running until 10/30, and there are plenty of tickets available, as well as a bunch of FREE SCREENINGS!  Click here for details.

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