The Banshees Of Inisherin (2022): legacy or friendship?

Is this film a career-best from Colin Farrell? I wanted to open with a question to myself, like those adverts… ‘Could you save money on your car insurance?’ Well, to return to my question, I think it might be. Unlike In Bruges (2008), which felt perhaps a two-hander between Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and was a dark comedy, but perhaps leant just towards the comedic side of, er, comedy. I feel The Banshees of Inisherin stands on just the other side of that line, with more of its toes in the world of drama. It feels more like a drama with darkly comedic elements.

But hey ho, I’m splitting hairs. It’s a long-winded way of saying that it’s a bit more serious and introspective than In Bruges. Less funny, more tragic, in a way. And that’s not to say it’s not an entertaining watch. To return to my first question, or to answer it, for me there’s a good case to be made for this being a career-best performance from Farrell. He drives the film. He plays a farmer called Pádraic Súilleabháin who lives on the small and fictional Irish island of Inisherin.

We begin with Pádraic. He heads to a cottage to pick up his drinking buddy Colm (Brendan Gleeson), only to find he isn’t there. When he finally does find Colm, it turns out Colm no longer wants to be his friend or to have anything to do with him. On such a small island this comes as a shock and a surprise to Pádraic. When we finally learn the reason behind Colm’s decision, and the lengths he will go to in terms of sticking to that path, it’s quite shocking. For us as an audience, but also for Pádraic. Not least because he’s not smart enough to realise the gravity of the situation.

And therein lies the push and pull between the two men: Colm, aware of the passage of time and desire to leave behind some kind of legacy, wants to change his life but needs to be radical to do so. Pádraic wants to keep life just the way it is, and sees no problem in spending time connecting with people and just enjoying the simplicity of existence.

In some ways, this feels like we’ve been given a window into writer-director Martin McDonagh’s mind, his thoughts and feelings in terms of how he gets to grips with the passage of time and the conflicting nature of wanting to leave some kind of legacy versus just… enjoying the company of people and not worrying about whether or not anyone will remember you once you’re gone.

Yes, he finds darkly comic ways to show us this on screen in a cinematic manner (the bleak beauty of Ireland looks stunning in this film), but ultimately it does feel like a sad and bittersweet sort of lament on ageing, creativity, legacy and connection. Also, about the inability of men to effectively communicate with one another — this is shown in a scene with Pádraic’s sister Siobhan (the excellent Kerry Condon), who becomes infuriated that she’s stuck on this tiny island with these idiotic men, to the point where she just has to leave in order to find some kind of peace.

There’s also a supporting role for Barry Keoghan. He plays a young lad called Dominic and his story is also quite tragic. Keoghan’s performance in portraying this character was incredibly accomplished. I admit, I didn’t quite gel with him when I first saw him in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer (2017), but I liked what he brought to Eternals (2021) and The Green Knight (2021), and he’s superb in this film.

Along with White Noise (another film I saw recently at the London Film Festival), I have to chalk this movie up as ‘one I found moving, engaging and had interesting themes, but not one I expect I’ll revisit any time soon.’ This is simply down to the fact that it is, when it comes down to it, quite a sad and melancholy affair. The performances are superb, and it will definitely make you laugh a number of times, but by the end you might feel somewhat downbeat about the state of humanity, and in particular that of men and how they connect with one another, especially as they get older. But that’s just my take.

I give this film a high 4/5 stars.

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