Saturday, February 25, 2023

Stubs - The Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022) Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan. Directed by Martin McDonagh. Screenplay by Martin McDonagh. Produced by Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Martin McDonagh. Run time: 114 minutes. Color. Ireland, United Kingdom, United States. Drama

Every year when awards season rolls around, you may find yourself wondering what some of these films receiving accolades are all about. This is what happened with me and The Banshees of Inisherin. I had heard about the film but hadn’t thought about seeing it until the nominations came in for a myriad of awards on various awards shows. For me, the only film awards that count are the Academy Awards and this film racked up nine, including Best Picture, Best Director (Martin McDonagh), Best Actor (Colin Farrell), Best Supporting Actor (both Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan), Best Supporting Actress (Kerry Condon), Best Original Screenplay (Martin McDonagh), Best Film Editing (Mikkel E. G. Nielsen), and Best Original Score (Carter Burwell).

Martin McDonagh, a playwright turned filmmaker, first got my attention with the highly overrated, in my opinion, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), which like this film was nominated for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture, along with Acting nominations (Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson. Sam Rockwell), as well as Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Original Score. I’m sorry to say that I wasn’t all that blown away by that film, feeling that it was two acts looking for a third.

While box-office should not be the measure of a film’s worthiness for awards, The Banshees of Inisherin was not a runaway hit, making $33.6 million worldwide in its first release.

At the pub, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) tells Pádraic Súilleabháin
 (Colin Farrell) that he no longer wants to be friends.

Set in 1923, at the end of the Irish Civil War, the film takes place on the fictional Irish island of Inisherin. Life seems to be going well for Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell). The sun is up, there’s even a rainbow in the sky. He wanders through the island to the house of his best friend Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson). It’s two o’clock, time to head to the pub. But Colm ignores him. Undaunted, Pádraic goes down to the pub and orders each of them a pint. After a while, Colm arrives but doesn’t want to drink with him. When Pádraic asks why not, Colm tells him that he doesn’t want to be his friend any longer.

Thus starts a series of events that neither could have foreseen. Even though the film is back in theaters based on its Academy Awards nominations, this review will have spoilers.

Colm has a reason that I can get behind for his rather cold decision to break off his friendship with Pádraic: life is short, too short, to be wasted in idle chit-chat with him. Colm has ambitions, wanting to create music that will outlive him. Such endeavors take time, which is something the older Colm doesn’t feel he has much left.

Pádraic loves his pet minature donkey.

Pádraic is pleasant but rather dull and uneducated. He loves animals and doesn’t mind discussing at length what he finds in his donkey's droppings. He lives with his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), sharing a room in the home of their now deceased parents. Unlike Pádraic, Siobhán enjoys reading and seems to be smothered by the sameness of daily life on the small island.

Without his friend, Pádraic seems lost. So much so that he ends up drinking with Dominic Kearney (Barry Keoghan), the rather dim-witted son of the very odd local constable Garda Peadar Kearney (Gary Lydon). Garda is a sexually frustrated quick to temper type that thinks nothing of cold-cocking Pádraic in public or beating up his son in private.

Mrs. McCormick (Sheila Flitton) is enigmatic.

The island is home to an eccentric bunch of residents, including Mrs. McCormick  (Sheila Flitton), whom Siobhán befriends, even though she’s a bit of a witch; postmistress Mrs. O'Riordan (Bríd Ní Neachtain), who is desperate for any news no matter how dull; pubkeeper Jonjo Devine (Pat Shortt); and the visiting priest (David Pearse) who isn’t above telling practitioners that they’re “f*cked”. These supporting characters provide not only atmosphere but some comic relief, which this film needs.

That’s because this film is not a comedy or even a black comedy; it is a drama. The fallout between friends gets quickly out of hand and the story gets into self-mutilation, which is a real turn off for me. Colm, to make a point, cuts off the fingers on his right hand, as punishment for Pádraic talking to him. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. What essentially Colm does it prevent himself from achieving the one thing he said he wanted to do. You’re left wondering the whys of that choice.

Colm and Pádraic are no closer by the end of the film.

But the misery doesn’t stop there. When Pádraic’s beloved donkey chokes and dies from eating one of Colm’s fingers, Pádraic takes the dispute to a new level and burns down Colm’s house.

Pádraic's sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon).


Meanwhile, Siobhán, who is my favorite character, takes the chance and moves to the mainland, where she has a job offer to work around books. She offers to bring Pádraic over but he refuses, deciding instead to live out his little life on this little island.

This is a rather sad film when you get right down to it. That’s not to say that it’s not well-acted, it is. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson do a great job with their characters. Farrell excels as the rather simple but amicable Pádraic who gets pushed to his limit. Brendan Gleeson’s Colm is an older brooding type who has an admirable aim but sabotages himself to make a point.

Kerry Condon does a good job with Siobhán. You can really sense that she’s growing tired of her little life and wants to break out, if not simply get away from Inisherin. You can’t blame her for wanting more out of life.

While it might be hard to play someone more simple-minded than Pádraic, Barry Keoghan’s Dominic manages to do just that. His portrayal of Dominic is well-done and ultimately very sad, when he ends up dead drowned in the water around the island.

The acting is good, but that doesn’t make The Banshees of Inisherin a Best Picture. Sort of like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the film isn’t ultimately satisfying. We’re left with more story to tell but that might be a good thing considering the direction it’s going in. While I felt compelled to see the film, I don’t feel like I can recommend it. If you insist on going to see it, because of the accolades, know what you’re getting in for.

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