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Alex Reynolds reviews The Banshees of Inisherin

Alex Reynolds

A saga of broken buddies navigating back to repairing a fractured friendship. The dark tragicomedy, written, directed and produced by Martin McDonagh, reunites Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, whose odd-couple pairing (Abbott and Costello?) made the gothic crime comedy “In Bruges” (2008), so enjoyable. “The Banshees of Inisherin” (theatres, various platforms) tops the list for the Golden Globe Awards (Jan. 10) scoring eight nominations including best film, and acting honours for Gleeson and Farrell.

McDonagh, a playwright with success onstage, has extended his interest to a cinema career writing and directing (“in Bruges”, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, 2017). His narrative here unfolds on the Emerald Isle in 1923 during the Irish civil war which had been raging for nearly a year, itself an extension of Ireland’s long history of violence and strife.

Pádraic ( Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson) lifelong odd-couple friends, live on a scantly populated remote island off the Irish Coast. Life is tranquil in this out of the way spot with residents born, growing up, and never leaving this world of their own. Outsiders would judge them as eccentrics.

McDonagh has the right touch in bringing the actors together on screen again as he did with “In Bruges.” Gleeson plays a sorely vexed grump weighed down by the ills of the world while Farrell evokes the character of an apprentice not quite grasping the techniques of the job.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” tops the career of the British-Irish director. McDonagh’s comedy-drama is heightened by a rich embellishment of darkly psychological themes. There’s a sense of discipline in the screenplay as personal conflicts blend with funny side characters. Loneliness also sets the tone as characters represent different forms of isolation. Pádraic feels remote from Colm assuming he’s a completely different person. There’s also beautiful craftmanship involved. Visuals do not intermeddle upon the narrative but realistically outline the conflicted viewpoints and complexities of the characters.

A film should be perceived, viewed, and entertain the viewer from various viewpoints. Paramount though is enjoyment “The Banshees of Inisherin” certainly capitalizes on a crackling screenplay that reunites two screen personalities. “In Bruges” (2008), written and directed by McDonagh was a critical hit with Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell scoring as two killers hiding out in the Belgium capitol. They become embroiled in a murderous situation with humorous results.

The director, known for his strong directorial style, has an ancillary tale to tell here. The comedy-drama, set in Ireland, relates a charming study of personalities, with unblemished acting from Gleeson and Farrell giving life to McDonagh’s simple yet effective storyline.

Two middle-aged bachelor friends, at mid-life crisis, when Colm suddenly chooses to discontinue their relationship and refusing to talk to Padraic again, claiming his friend is dull (“I just don’t like you anymore!”). Colm’s stunning cutting edge announcement is based on declining number of years left remaining in his life, and so instead of idle chatter and local time wasting pointless gossip, he wants to build on projects for ascetic glory.

Though dismayed, Padraic refuses to accept Colm’s fire bomb assessment, saying its preposterous and ridiculous, questioning why

this abrupt shift in Colm’s behaviour and attitude. Though utterly astounded, he begins attempts to persuade Colm that nothing has changed between them. His efforts are thwarted with constant rejection, and here the situation turns ugly.

The film is not necessarily a straight ahead buddy narrative but one that reunites a fractured relationship torn apart by a sudden selfish whim. Paired together, Gleeson and Farrell own the roles. Who doesn’t feel tingles from a tale that warms the emotions?

Able backup support is contributed by Kerry Condon as Padraic’s concerned sister and Barry Keoghan is a jokesmith son of an abusive father. Attracting the viewers eye, McDonagh references the humor and pathos of the human connection and teases with the natural beauty of the coastal Emerald Isle.   

Join your pal at the cinema for this one. You could learn something new about your friendship.

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