An old friendship turns sour at the centre of Martin McDonagh’s fourth feature, The Banshees of Inisherin. Set in 1923 in the fictional Aran island of Inisherin, the director acutely establishes the bewilderment of the close-knit countryside when the unusual breakup of a relationship is put out loud. “I just don’t like you no more,” says Colm (Brendan Gleeson) to Pádraic (Colin Farrell) when the latter asks him why he won’t go to the local pub with him. “You liked me yesterday,” Pádraic reasons, unable to grasp the truth. (Also read: Night at the Museum 3 review: It has nothing new to offer)
Pádraic struggles to understand the situation, and straddles with the idea that he has been left behind because he is dull and boring. But he would have no one else- not even his chaotic and quietly understanding sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and the dimwit young lad Dominic (Barry Keoghan), to spend his hours chatting with other than Colm. Yet, Colm states his reason affront- he is done with the hours of aimless talk Pádraic has to offer and would rather do away with it to concentrate on his music. He doesn’t want to waste the time he has left in this lifetime without leaving a mark. No one remembers the nice people, Colm reminds Pádraic in one achingly tense drunken encounter. They remember the art. But, if Pádraic doesn’t leave him alone and continues to bother him, Colm threatens him that he will cut his fingers one by one and leave it at his door. And so, he does.
Self-mutilation isn’t the only discomfort that McDonagh latches upon here. Its depths of existential dread and male ego dig deep. The Banshees of Inisherin sets this fallout as the template for integrating a controlled rural Irish tale that invisibly mounts up to transform into an allegory about a nation grappling with itself. If you’re new to McDonagh’s flair of dark comedy, Banshees is quite a stealthy example of the director’s side-eyed view of human existence. Here, he delivers his most mature and elliptical work yet: his persistence on holding on to the sparks of humanity in these characters is unmistakable. McDonagh’s firm command over the proceedings is matched with an excellent set of cast and crew–with composer Carter Burwell and cinematographer Ben Davis being the standouts.
But it is with the ensemble group of actors where McDonagh draws in a winner. Brendan Gleeson gets the best lines and delivers them with an icy-cold opacity, with Colin Farrell knocking it out of the park with his reaction to them. Farrell’s portrait of a man slowly sinking into the depths of sadness, betrayal and the loss of kindness is a treat to watch- no other performance this year will break your heart the way his scenes with the donkey Jenny do. Kerry Candon is a delight as his sister, who slowly yearns to leave this madness, but it is Barry Keoghan whose willowy line reading of “There goes that dream,” threatens to steal the show. Its hard to imagine The Banshees of Inisherin without this group of excellent actors eating up McDonagh’s acerbic, blistering words on screen. The Banshees of Inisherin is a work of ferocious wisdom and wit, one that will refuse to leave your side even if you try hard to shake it off.
The Banshees of Inisherin is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
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