This film is a breath of fresh air, combining a unique plot with dark humor and a fantastic cast, making a triumphant reunion for Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” marks the return of the collaboration between actors Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell with writer-director Martin McDonagh. This trio is best known for the 2008 dark comedy “In Bruges.”
“Banshees” follows Pádraic (Farrell) as he tries to understand why his longtime friend Colm (Gleeson) no longer wants to be friends with him. Taking place on a fictional remote Irish island in the 1920s, the film is subtle but still brings the dark humor that is expected from McDonagh. Though it is not as intense as McDonagh’s previous work, it is absurd in the best ways.
Farrell’s performance perfectly captures a sweet but clueless man who cares deeply for those around him, especially animals and his beloved donkey. While the movie is simple, Farrell’s performance reaches many levels, from gentle to angry to hurt and confused.
Gleeson puts in a fantastic performance as well, actually playing the fiddle himself in some scenes. His character is gruff and offers less of a range of emotions, but he finds many nuances in his delivery. The audience can see that his character is a man who seems normal but may have a few screws loose.
Farrell and Gleeson have a distinct chemistry, and the audience can feel a history between them, despite the film beginning with Colm effectively breaking up with Pádraic as a friend. Every scene showing their interactions demonstrates this. Farrell’s naive kindness plays well off of Gleeson’s firm aloofness.
The cast also includes Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan in supporting roles. This marks the third time Keoghan and Farrell have acted together. Condon is warm, sharp and witty as Pádraic’s sister, Siobhán, while Keoghan flawlessly portrays the awkward, stunted and shifty Dominic. Both are simultaneously funny and depressing in spite of their characters largely differing.
The setting and score of the film add to the bleakness of the story, as it seems to analyze the behaviors of small-town communities. In addition, it addresses male emotions and how depression can manifest, especially in a time when it was less socially acceptable. Characters reference depression as though it were a bad word throughout the film, which provides commentary as well as humor.
Overall the film doesn’t overcomplicate things nor does it shy away from weirdness and taking risks. For those who appreciate dark comedy, eccentric films and quirky characters, it is a must-watch, but could be a good introduction to dark humor for other viewers. It is currently playing at the Grand Cinema in Tacoma and the Century Theater in Federal Way, among others.