Natasha Turnbull tells us all about Martin McDonagh’s new comedy drama ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’…
Director Martin McDonagh takes on his fifth movie in the new comedy-drama ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’, a small-scale film which follows the tale of two lifelong friends who suddenly find themselves in a bizarre, increasingly sombre fallout. Set in 1923 on the fictional island of Inisherin, just off the coast of Ireland, the film stars protagonists Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who reunite from their on-screen partnership in the 2008 comedy ‘In Burges’. Despite the witty comedic remarks that continue throughout the movie, it slowly establishes a sad undertone as the fallout between the two men begins to take over their lives.
Pádraic is first seen on his way to the local clifftop pub as it is “already two o’clock in the afternoon.” There, he meets his best friend Colm, only for him to insist that Pádraic sits elsewhere. Pádraic is baffled and presses Colm to admit if he had said or done anything wrong to upset him, to which Colm responds, “I just don’t like you no more.” Pádraic is only more confused by this. He thinks Colm would prefer to concentrate on writing folk music than listen to his friend ramble about random nonsense, such as what he found in his donkeys’ droppings that day. Instead of explaining further, he lets Pádraic know that every time he attempts to talk to him from this moment forward, Colm will cut one of his fingers off until he has none left. The thought of this is so ridiculous that not only does Pádraic not believe Colm, but neither does the audience.
Pádraic has a strong bond with his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon), as they share a cottage alongside their cows, pony, and beloved donkey. Siobhan is clearly the wiser of the pair and tries to diffuse the feud between her brother and Colm. However, this fails as Pádraic drunkenly confronts his former best friend at the pub. While he soon apologises for his outburst, it is too late, and a box arrives on Pádraic’s doorstep, the first finger. The realisation kicks in for both viewers and the siblings that Colm’s ‘nonsense’ threat was entirely genuine.
There initially appears to be a moment of rekindling between Pádraic and Colm, as Colm explains he finished his new song that he plans to title ‘The Banshees of Inisherin.’ He intends to leave behind a legacy of some sort, as he believes being remembered is more important than being a good person. The tender moment between the two does not last long, as Pádraic reveals he tricked one of Colm’s musical friends into leaving the island, only giving another reason for more chaos to unfold.
Throughout the film, there is a growing sense that Siobhan is tired of the tiny rural town and longs for more. Before the main storyline between Pádraic and Colm continues, we see Siobhan move away to the mainland after securing a new job. Her brother is slowly losing all those closest to him, and sadly, things only worsen.
As if it was an easy task, Colm’s remaining fingers lay outside Pádraic’s cottage, causing more damage than ever imagined. Jenny, Pádraic’s beloved donkey, choked to death on one of the fingers. Pádraic has now lost the final thing he cared most for, he cannot take it, and he craves revenge.
He rampantly storms into the pub to blame Colm for Jenny’s death, and while Colm has sympathy for this, it is too late. Pádraic tells his former friend that tomorrow he is going to burn his house down, another claim which seems far too insane to be true.
Such emotions of stubbornness and sorrow drive Pádraic to follow through on his threat towards his newly found enemy. The rampant feud between the two men ends as he sets Colm’s house alight after moving his dog to safety. We see Colm sitting contently in his home as if he has no care in the world for what is bound to happen. However, in the morning, Pádraic spots Colm on the beach. Colm tells him that the destruction of his home marks the ending of their nonsense rivalry, to which Pádraic says that it only would have ended if Colm was in the house. Bitterness aside, Colm thanks him for looking after his dog, to which he replies, “any time.” After all the ludicrousness, there is a love and understanding for each other that remains.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a must-watch. Underneath its complex comedy and witty remarks lay the consequences of two stubborn-minded men who cannot cope with not getting their way. Despite the movie maintaining a light and comedic atmosphere, which creates a deep sense of personality, the eerily sad consequences of their fallout highlight how the smallest of things can have so much control over your life until you have forgotten who you are.