Martin McDonagh, writer and director of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, “Seven Psychopaths”, and “In Bruges” returns to his homeland with his latest film, “The Banshees of Inisherin.” The story takes place on a small fictional island just off the shore of Ireland. It’s April 1923, at the very end of the Irish Civil war. The residents of Inisherin can sometimes see the gunfire and explosions across the ocean that separates them. It’s a stark contrast to their painfully dull lives, where the highlight of most days is 2 pm when the local pub opens.
For Pádraic (Colin Farrell), his daily pub dates with best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) are the only thing worth looking forward to. If he’s not at the pub, he’s at home hanging out with his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and miniature donkey Lilly. One day, Pádraic gets a very confusing reaction from Colm. Colm suddenly decides he no longer wants to associate with him and declares their friendship over. Pádraic and the other locals are shocked. Did he do something to offend Colm? Is Colm teasing him? Is it just boredom that inspired this violent shift from the routine? Pádraic begins to associate with Dominic (Barry Keoghan), a rather dim but passionate young man who fills his head with various ideas on how to treat the situation, some more advisable than others.
The film spends a great deal of time trying to determine the reasoning behind Colm’s decision and just how serious he is with his threats. But even once we understand, it makes us ponder why he made this choice. Is it better to be selfish and borderline cruel for what you believe to be the greater good? Is blunt honestly more honorable than lying and putting on a charade to shield someone’s feelings? As you reach the twilight years of your life, what type of legacy is truly the most important? Being forgotten by the world, only known by the impact you had on the lives in your immediate circle, or to be known by name only for artistic works?
The script is vague enough that it inspires our minds to mull over all of these elements. This is one of those movies that sticks in your head for a long time, occasionally popping up with another philosophical query. A fellow critic believes the entire film is a metaphor for the Irish Troubles, or perhaps even the Irish Civil War. After Ireland won its Independence from the UK in 1922, the Civil War almost immediately began, with Southern Ireland wanting to be a completely separate country, and Northern Ireland wanting to be a self-ruled territory still technically part of the UK. Men who had fought together in the IRA against the British suddenly found themselves fighting each other. Families, towns, and friends were suddenly torn apart. A line from the trailer is especially fitting, “But you liked me yesterday!” The more you ponder the events of the film, the more parallels reveal themselves. But ultimately, it’s up to the individual to decide what this film means.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is a beautiful, haunting film and in an odd juxtaposition, one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen that wallows in despair. It’s currently in limited release, but expect to hear increasingly more about this one as the awards season ramps up.
Banshees of Inisherin