THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN

By Marc S. Sanders

You ever hear of the modern term “ghosting?”  Normally, it applies to social media, like with Facebook, Instagram and every other brain cell sucker app we occupy ourselves with on our electronic devices.  It’s where suddenly, for no reason at all, a friend or acquaintance will stop speaking to you.  They will ignore your attempts to talk.  If they do talk to you, they simply will say stop talking to me and do not call me again. They will never share a reason for this new perspective they have for you.  They just want to continue with their lives without you being a part of it.  I have been ghosted on two separate occasions.  It hurts.  It really hurts, and I constantly must remind myself not to dwell on these people.  They don’t care.  They lack any further regard.  It’s just unbelievably puzzling when it happens.

With The Banshees Of Inisherin, director Martin McDonagh reunites Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, who shared the screen together in the well received In Bruges, to portray these two former friends.  Farrell plays Padraic.  Gleeson is Colm.  The film takes place in 1923 on the fictional Irish coastal island of Inisherin.  Padraic strolls over to Colm’s house to walk with him to the pub for their daily 2pm pint together while they chat.  Upon arrival, Colm is seen sitting in his home, ignoring Padraic’s knocks on the door and window.  It’s odd and unexpected. 

When Padraic shows up at the pub alone and later Colm arrives, the other regulars ask Padraic if the two lifelong friends are “rowing.”  Not to Padraic’s knowledge.  Maybe this is an April’s Fools joke?!?!

Colm holds true to his new position.  He explains to Padraic, with no uncertain terms, that he no longer wants to speak with him.  Padraic makes attempts to open up to Colm hoping they can hash this out, but there is nothing penetrating Colm’s stance.

What lends to the sustenance of the near two-hour film is the setting that Padraic resides within.  An island in the middle of nowhere where he has no interests or hobbies or specialties for anything.  He really has only happily lived with his friendship with Colm, which is now suddenly yanked away from him.  He lives well with his sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon), and his adoring miniature donkey, Jenny.  Siobhan truly loves her brother, but not Jenny or the other animals who reside on their property.  As the Irish Civil War is coming to a close, an educated Siobhan is ready to move on from the nothingness of Inisherin.  Padraic is not.  He’s lived so comfortably on the Irish coastal island his whole life.

Colin Farrell is an actor you want to embrace in this film.  As I’ve experienced something similar to what Padraic endures, I can relate to what stuns him at his sudden loss of friendship.  Padraic is a good man.  Colm knows this which is seemingly why extremes needs to be undertaken to stress exactly how Colm feels about Padraic going forward.  Colm cannot simply plead for Padraic to move on.  He first makes the request.  Later, he has to do something else to deliver his point.  When I say extremes are taken, you can not even imagine what occurs.  It’s shocking, but believable. 

Brendan Gleeson normally offers an intimidating presence on screen.  He falls into roles of men you’d likely only cautiously approach.  The same goes for his character of Colm here.  McDonagh wrote the character with no compromise. Only when a significant turn occurs, does Colm violate his feelings with how he regards his former friend.

Kerry Condon should get an Oscar nomination along with Gleeson and Farrell. Siobhan is both a loving sister but while she’s the younger sibling, she is also the more sensible.  As Siobhan, Condon’s timing for losing patience in the part is well paced.  Condon is awarded with some of the best dialogue in the script.  McDonagh could have written this film from the perspective of her role, rather than Padraic’s, and I bet it would still work thanks to what she lends to the piece.

Barry Keoghan plays a young regular around Inisherin named Dominic.  Kind of like a local idiot who is undeservedly abused by his policeman father.  Keoghan’s role is a side story, but he plays it so well.  Despite Siobhan’s protests, Padraic takes Dominic in.  He’s not meant to replace the void that Colm left in Padraic’s life but it further reminds you of the kindness of Farrell’s character.  It begs the question why someone would ultimately stop speaking with a good person like Padraic, at a given instant.

My wife was not interested in watching this film and asked me to give her a rundown of what happens from beginning to end.  When you describe The Banshees Of Inisherin out loud, you sound ridiculous even though you’ve appreciated some of the surprising moments you just watched.  I told my wife; you have to see it to understand.  I understand Padraic’s yearning for the friendship he once had.  I understand the measures he takes in response to the one thing he valued beyond his sister and his pet donkey.  When you live in a low populated island town with little stimulation beyond the people who have been a part of your entire life, to suddenly lose that is devastating.

Martin McDonagh has crafted an unusual script.  Often, break ups in films go the traditional route of the loving relationship going through a split.  If it’s a friendship, I’d argue I’ve seen it occur more often between two women.  McDonagh’s film acknowledges the impasse among two grown men.  His script could have been occupied only with dialogue constructed of standard duet scenes between two very strong actors.  Fortunately, he doesn’t just rely on that.  McDonagh stretches his imagination further to drive home the point of how these two men respond to this unfortunate outcome.  The actions they take are startling, but as I reflect on the script for the film, I cannot deny how alert McDonagh is with crafting the motives of his characters. At the very least, I’m empathetic for poor Padraic who struggles with the loss of a friend. 

To lose a friend is to lose a part of your soul. What can I say? I’m an overly sensitive guy.  It’s always been my Achille’s heel.  How do I survive, though? I think back to what my father once told me.  He said “Marc, if you have one friend in life, then you’re the luckiest guy in the world.”  Thankfully, I’m rich in many friendships.

Forgive my digression though.  It’s important to know The Banshees Of Inisherin is a very good and a very sound film.

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