The Banshees of Inisherin

It’s 1923.  The Irish Civil War is in full swing on the mainland, but in the small fictional island of Inisherin, life progresses in the same slow, relaxed manner.  All the townsfolk know one another, and most of them gather for a pint of lager after a long day of tending to farming or fishing.  Inisherin is the classic Irish enclave of yesteryear.  Nothing ever changes.  Nothing ever will.

Paper-thin plot

Then one day master violinist and artist Colm (Brendan Gleeson) informs his best friend Padraic (Colin Farrell) that he no longer wants to be friends.  Padraic can’t believe Colm is serious, and following a couple days’ breather, approaches Colm again.  This time, Colm announces he will begin self-mutilation if Padraic continues to push for friendship.  The only reason provided is that Padraic is simply not interesting enough for Colm to continue to waste time listening to his boring stories.

Three Billboards

And thus we have the most unusual set-up for Martin McDonagh’s latest feature, “The Banshees of Inisherin.”  Recall that McDonagh’s last film was the brilliant, offbeat comedy “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which received widespread critical acclaim, and earned acting Oscars for Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell.  It almost made my list of the Ten Best Films of the decade.

If there was one criticism of “Three Billboards,” some critics felt it featured too many characters, and perhaps one too many plot twists.  No such fear with “The Banshees of Inisherin.”  The establishment of the plot described above is all there is to this story.  There is nothing more.  And save for Padraic’s sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and the village idiot Dominic (Barry Keoghan), there are no major characters.

Is that all there is?

It’s hard to believe a full-length studio motion picture could be made around such a paper-thin premise as the dissolution of a friendship.  But that’s exactly what we have here.  And while McDonagh’s original screenplay is peppered with several good laughs (of the subtle, Irish-humor variety), this is the kind of movie where the closing credits roll and we think, “Is that all there is?”

The irony, I suppose, is that Padraic is a genuinely nice guy – the type anyone would want for a friend.  Colm is more serious, and into his art.  Siobhan is highly intelligent, and believes this whole friendship breakup is ridiculous.  But as Colm begins to disable his own body, we can’t help but agree with her.  No sound, reasonable person would behave this way, which begs the question why Padraic would treasure Colm’s companionship so heartily.  We are led to believe they must have been very close buddies.  So why the sudden change of heart on Colm’s part?

Hard to care about characters

I guess we’ll never know.  But then, by about halfway through we cease to care.  To say “The Banshees of Inisherin” is one of the year’s worst films might actually be an understatement.  For the life of me, I cannot fathom why McDonagh thinks anyone would be interested in this material.  The Colm character is so outside the realm of reality, we cannot relate to him.  But without him, there is no story.  Heck, even with him there isn’t much story here.  Take my advice and skip this one.






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