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I saw The Banshees of Inisherin at Fantastic Fest this year and thought it was a cozy little film. But now that it’s available on HBO Max, another layer of interpretation is allowed: Watching it with the captions on. Otherwise, I’d never know what a “gom” is.
The new Martin McDonagh film is about friends ghosting friends, but on a fictional island in Ireland, 1923. To distill it even further, Banshees is about two men being huge bitches to each other, and sets up the perfect scenario for a “Men would rather…” meme.
“Cutting people off” takes on a new meaning here. Lifelong pals Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Pádraic (Colin Farrell, having a great year) must suddenly reconsider their friendship after Colm decides: “I just don’t like you no more.” Everyone asks Pádraic: “Are ye rowin’?” But he doesn’t think so.
Can this premise—two men being stubborn—sustain a two-hour film? The Banshees of Inisherin unfolds more like a play but, surprisingly, yes it can. To Colm, his cold shoulder is more a statement about reclaiming his time: He’d rather write a new song on his fiddle than listen to Pádraic blather on at the pub. In the distance, you see smoke from the Irish civil war.
Pádraic is dim, though not the dimmest on the island—that’d be Dominic (Barry Keoghan). But he claims that at least he’s “nice,” which can’t be said for a lot of Inisherin’s residents. Kerry Condon is a standout as Pádraic’s sister Siobhán, who defends her brother but longs for a more exciting life.
Farrell and Gleeson reunite for a film that’s very different from 2008’s In Bruges while also being familiar, thematically. (Two friends have a falling out, one doesn’t know why.) There’s some incredible banter here, and some “good normal chatting,” and McDonagh fully immerses you in this gorgeous fictional place, full of “grudges and loneliness.”
Why it matters
Is the film “quietly creeping into pole position this awards season”? Well, it picked up eight Golden Globe nominations this week, putting it just ahead of Everything Everywhere All At Once, and there’s been some viral FYC content circulating.
Period pieces tend to get preferential treatment during awards season, plus McDonagh’s previous film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, won Best Picture at the Golden Globes in 2018. This sets up an Oscars race that will likely be heavy on Banshees, EEAAO, and The Fabelmans.