‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ movie review: Martin McDonagh’s striking rumination on the human condition

Through the story of two friends, Martin McDonagh also tells a tale of an everyman who has to wrestle with the idea of being forgotten while continuing to dredge through life and grapple with innumerable absurdities that govern it

Updated - December 15, 2022 05:00 pm IST

Published - December 15, 2022 03:16 pm IST

Colin Farrell as Pádraic Súilleabháin and Barry Keoghan as Dominic Kearney in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’.

Colin Farrell as Pádraic Súilleabháin and Barry Keoghan as Dominic Kearney in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’. | Photo Credit: Disney+ Hotstar

1923 Ireland is wrought with Civil War and death is on the horizon, but the remote island of Inisherin off the coast is occupied by the break up of two friends — Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson). When Pádraic visits Colm for an afternoon trip to the local pub (a ritual the friends shared for a long time), Colm refuses to speak to him, setting off a chain of events that tread the line of surrealism while unravelling the coarse threads that weave meaning into life.

The Banshees of Inisherin
Director: Martin McDonagh
Cast: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Sheila Flitton, Gary Lydon
Runtime: 114 minutes
Storyline: Pádraic is devastated when his buddy Colm suddenly puts an end to their lifelong friendship. With help from his sister and a troubled young islander, Pádraic sets out to repair the damaged relationship by any means necessary.

Colm, as the villagers say, is a “thinker”; he is bogged down by philosophical questions and wishes to spend the rest of his life (he is convinced he has only twelve years to live) inspecting the meaning of his existence. He wishes to leave a mark on the world and as a violin player, he often measures his life against Mozart’s. Pádraic, on the other hand, according to the villagers, is “one of life’s good guys” and does not know who Mozart is; he is concerned with his cows, a miniature donkey, and the stuff he discovers in his pony’s faeces. He is a staunch believer in being nice to people around him and argues that people will only be remembered for their kindness. Ambitions and other worldly pleasures are alien to Pádraic who does not even entertain the idea of moving out of his house, unlike his sister Siobhán Súilleabháin (Kerry Condon), who has dreams of her own and is sometimes held back by her brother’s inability to tango with the world.

With Colm and Pádraic’s inspection of bonds shared by friends, McDonagh’s drama serves as a great allegory to the act of going to war with you own.

Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s chemistry on-screen rewrites norms surrounding the portrayal of friendship between two old beer-drinking men. Farrell’s magnificent portrayal of a kind man riddled with confusion is astounding and his famous eyebrows only supplement his efforts; Gleeson with his ice-cold presence adds gravity to the two-hour-long movie that probes the questions surrounding existential dread and life in this astute Irish fable. However, it is Barry Keoghan who steals the show as Dominic Kearney, the troubled son of a brute police officer.

Setting a story about heartbreak, war and intrusive philosophical ideas on a remote Irish island which keeps the outside world at bay, in a sense, concentrates Martin McDonagh’s meditation on the human condition. His rendezvous with the Christian faith in a conflict-ridden land and the disdain some of the characters hold for officers in uniform are riotous. The dialogue writing is sharp and works in generating a comically tragic laugh that might push us into a pit of despair.

The Banshees of Inisherin is the story of two friends, but it is also a tale of an everyman who has to wrestle with the idea of being forgotten while continuing to dredge through life and grapple with innumerable absurdities that govern it.

‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.

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