Featured image: Jonathan Hession. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.
What would you do if your best friend didn’t want to be your best friend anymore? Martin McDonagh’s new film explores this question through his unique blend of comedy and pathos, delivering a surprising crowd-pleaser.
Pádraic (Colin Farrell) goes to the pub one day, like every other day, to see his long-time friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), only to find that he no longer wants anything to do with him. This is all I knew going into the cinema, and my experience was all the better for it. As with McDonagh’s previous film (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), this is a ‘What-If?’ type of story. What if somebody put up three billboards attacking the police department? Well, it turned out to be a lot of bad stuff. What if your friend didn’t want to be friends anymore? That’s exactly what is explored here, and the less you know about what comes next, the better.
It is joyous seeing Farrell and Gleeson reunite again, 14 years after In Bruges, the film that brought them together with director, McDonagh. This is a casting choice that not only works as a nice bit of fan service but also serves the narrative. We’ve seen these two actors build a relationship in another film, and so it makes the friendship between them effortlessly visible, making the subsequent break-up even more tragic. Farrell is particularly impressive, filling Pádraic with likability even though the character is a slightly dopey, dull man.
However, it’s Pádraic’s sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) who steals each scene as the only character acting rationally in the situation. Morally divided between staying and supporting her brother or starting a better life, she delivers many of the best lines, being at times extremely funny and at others full of sadness. Siobhan is the only person who can see how much the situation affects Pádraic, and many of the scenes between her and Farrell are positively heartbreaking.
The most surprising thing about the film is it’s properly laugh-out-loud funny. The packed audience seemed unsure of the comedy as it started, hearing occasional giggles. But then, at the ten minutes mark, when we had settled into the tone, it was like being in a screening for a rowdy American comedy. Think Irish Bridesmaids.
The film is essentially a break-up movie, evaluating the ending of a different kind of relationship. It’s unusual to witness male friendships depicted on screen as anything other than hyper-masculine ‘bros’ or simple comic relief. So, seeing two vulnerable men, both (in their own way) broken by losing a friend, is a real rarity on the big screen.
Initially, I didn’t like the ending. Without giving anything away, the film stops abruptly, feeling quite jarring. On reflection, it’s quite masterful, giving the audience just enough to play this story out in our heads but not quite enough for everything to become completely clear. A beautiful, profound ending.
The Banshees of Inisherin delivers on all fronts; comedy, heart and donkeys. Try to avoid spoilers and let the film take you on its weird, wonderful ride.