Colin Farrell loses a friend in one of the year’s best movies

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo | Oct. 27, 2022

The Banshees of Inisherin
Opens Friday 28
4.5 out of 5

Martin McDonagh’s filmography isn’t perfect but his hit-to-miss ratio is great. Six Shooter (short), In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri — all phenomenal. Even his one dud — Seven Psychopaths — bombed due to its unchecked ambition. There are worse ways to fail.

I would venture The Banshees of Inisherin is McDonagh’s best work. The filmmaker scales down the Three Billboards’ complexities to focus on the simplest of relationships — a friendship between two men on a small Irish island during the 1920s. And who better to portray them than his leading men from In Bruges?

Did I say friendship? I meant breakup. Every day, Padraic (Colin Farrell, who does dimwitted to perfection) picks up his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and both walk to the local pub for a couple of beers and small talk. This comes to an end when Colm informs Padraic in no uncertain terms he doesn’t like him anymore. The reason? Padraic is a good dude, but Colm is sick of his petty grievances and pointless chatter.

The decision hits Padraic like a ton of bricks. This simple man, neither bright nor capable of introspection, can’t wrap his head around the idea that anyone’s time could possibly be better spent without him. Colm stays firm in his decision, in spite of residual affection for poor Padraic. He’s thinking about time slipping away and wants to leave a folk song with his name behind as a legacy.

Colm’s resolve turns into something more unsettling when his former friend refuses to accept his terms.

A couple of characters and a wee donkey add texture to the dramedy. Padraic’s sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon, Better Call Saul) longs to leave, but worries about her brother and his empty existence. Meanwhile, Padraic grows closer to Dominic (Barry Keoghan, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), the son of a violent cop and something of a village idiot. That old adage, “there’s always someone worse off than you,” comes to mind.

The Padraic-Colm dynamic is fascinating and crackling dialogue terrific, but even without those strengths The Banshees of Inisherin’s ability to make you gasp is enough excuse to buy a ticket. McDonagh does a superb job dragging the audience into a miasma of resentment, recrimination and love.

There’s an allegoric side to Banshees that has nothing to do with wailing spirits. As Padraic and Colm’s friendship splinters, the Irish Civil War rages on. Your interpretation is as good as mine. Another message of the film is clearer: some people adopt untenable positions even if they pay a heavy toll for their stubbornness. Like, say, people who vote for fascists and stick with them no matter what they do or who they hurt. ■