Unfriending Takes on an Epic Scale in Martin McDonagh’s Intimate, Witty “Banshees of Inisherin”

Now playing in select theatres from Searchlight Pictures

Whether interpreted as a peculiar fugue on male loneliness, a reflection on the origins of conflict or simply a dark comedic lark about an “unfriending” on a fictional Irish isle in the 1920s, Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin (A-) is a fulfilling comedy-drama well told with excellent acting, keen insight and glorious atmosphere. McDonagh makes a largely talky story fully engaging and cinematic by showcasing the tinges of violence simmering under the surface among his carefully drawn parochial, sometimes spiteful island denizens. Lush cinematography by Ben Davis and a lyrical score by Carter Burwell help punctuate the environment of a pretty but isolated rural village where good-natured Pádraic (Colin Farrell) finds one day his BFF Colm (Brendan Gleeson) has abruptly resolved to stop interacting with him. Farrell’s protagonist, provincial and blissfully unaware he is cramping the style of his grumpy bud, simply can’t get out of his own head about the confounding situation. The battle of wills following this fissure of friendship amasses complicated, unexpected and near-mythic implications, with the eerie, elderly Mrs. McCormack (Sheila Flitton) holding court over the island’s history as if guarding the temple to the Underworld. Farrell, all hound dog expressions and sad sack emotions, and Gleeson, gruff and troubled with few words and a mournful fiddle, are in top form at the center of the existential struggle. Those who enjoyed this duo’s past collaboration with the director, In Bruges, will likely appreciate this story as a counter companion piece. Also delightful as foils to Farrell’s character are Kerry Condon as feisty sister Siobhán and Barry Keoghan as troubled and uncensored local boy Dominic. The film is a rich work full of perfectly drawn humor, expected to be rewarding to cinephiles and possibly a bit of a head scratcher to those who don’t hop immediately on its vibe.

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