By Robert Richmond
After not being a huge fan of ’Three Billboards,’ it was vital McDonagh return to his roots and I think this is his best film yet! It perfectly balances the typical Irish humour of his work with the existential crisis of Colin and Brendan’s characters. The whole subplot with the cop felt like McDonagh himself addressing a lot of the criticisms his previous outing ‘Three Billboards’ received.
This is personally a film about masculinity and the struggles within. Gleeson’s character is clearly depressed but is so emotionally stunted he can’t really do anything about it, he quite literally mutilates himself as a way of ‘getting back’ at Farrell. His mutilation is how he punishes himself, instead of just talking, that’s how he operates. We see how the island of Inisherin can corrupt a person in Farrell, who becomes mean and bitter throughout the film.
In Kerry Condon we see the potential escape, a way out of the mundane and repetitive life of Inisherin, a chance at something greater. It’s a place where Farrell is clearly unhappy and by the end there’s next to nothing there for him aside from his animals. Unfortunately, he’s too married to this place and feels like he has to stay, even though if he left he could have a much better life. The war in the background, of Irish rebels now fighting each other as opposed to a unifying threat like the English, mirrors the struggle and feud between the two leads, a petty conflict taken to such extreme lengths that it completely corrupts two seemingly decent men.
I haven’t laughed this much in years, and all of the humour is perfectly placed throughout! The red van joke got the biggest laugh in any film in 2022 while the emotional moments are given the respect they deserve but we’ve also got the witty Irish banter that perfectly captures the dynamics at play in every Irish town. The nosy old lady, the obsession with death, the barman, the kind hearted butt of the joke… while traditional archetypes, they all feel like real and well rounded characters despite that.
The Banshees of Inisherin is Martin McDonagh at his best, a tragicomedy of the highest order that asks existential questions about legacy, friendship and donkey poo.