The Banshees of Inisherin

A wickedly funny and powerful movie about an old man who wants to be left alone.

Writer/director Martin McDonagh has previously guided Colin Farrell and Brendon Gleeson in his feature-length debut of “In Bruges,” and now, they’re all back together for “The Banshees of Inisherin.” It’s another dark comedy that knows how to use its consequences but in another genre. “In Bruges” was an action comedy, while this one is a dramedy. It knows when to be funny, when to be serious, when to be shocking, and when to be all of the above.

We travel to the fictional island of Inisherin off the coast of Ireland during the Irish Civil War in 1923. Farrell plays Padraic Suilleabhain, while Gleeson is Colm Doherty. They’ve been good drinking buddies at their local pub for years now. But one day, out of the blue, Colm calls off their friendship. Padraic didn’t insult him or do anything to him. He just doesn’t like him anymore.

Come on. There has to be more than that. Is the old man depressed?

Colm just found his calling in the violin, and believes Padraic is wasting his life with his aimless dialogue. The latter tries to convince the former he’s an interesting person, but to no avail.

Now, this old guy is being rude to his nice ex-friend. Or he is going through a mental stage? Because he threatens Padraic that if he doesn’t stop bothering him, he’ll cut off his own fingers-one-by-one-and hand deliver them to his home.

He’s kidding, right? Right?!

Maybe, maybe not.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is outrageously and honestly funny as the humor brings out the best of the F-bombs which aren’t forced unlike most commercial comedies these days. But the comedy is also wacky in low key standards as the characters struggle to overcome whatever is changing Colm. You’re laughing when you least expect it.

This movie is also dark and serious, as McDonagh pushes his main characters to the very limit. What begins as a good friendship ends up becoming toxic, as they start to have consequences, some of them by accident and some of them on purpose. And there are also apologies that are either accepted or ignored. Farrell and Gleeson both give exceptional performances, and continue to work with the filmmaker on new territory.

Among the supporting cast who more than earn our appreciation, Kerry Condon (a McDonagh regular in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and the voice of F.R.I.D.A.Y. in MCU) plays Padraic’s sister Siobhan, who is annoyed by Colm’s behavior and the fact that her brother always allows their donkey Jenny inside, like she’s their pet dog. Barry Koeghan plays their village idiot acquaintance Dominic, who is also the abused son of the local policeman (Gary Lydon). And Sheila Flitton plays Mrs. McCormick, the village ghoul, who can predict tragedy on the island, and is not the kind of person the siblings want to be friends with, especially when she holds her stick and wears a cloak.

I’m of Irish decent, as I’m sure some of you know, so it was easy for me to fall in love with “The Banshees of Inisherin,” especially with the locations and homes. But I’m also seeing proof that McDonagh (whose last entry “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” made my Best of 2010s list) has proven himself to be a filmmaker who isn’t here for commercial fame, but rather to present a sense of humor that even American audiences can relate to. But he also allows his characters to have vulnerabilities, which can move you when you read between the lines.

Don’t overlook it, see it ASAP! It’s one of the year’s most groundbreaking films.

Rating: 4 out of 4.

Playing in New York and Los Angeles This Week

Categories: comedy, Drama

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