Updated: May 13
Martin McDonagh has been the creative force behind some of the greatest dark comedies of the last couple decades. With films like In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths (please watch Seven Psychopaths, it is phenomenal) reaching cult status rather quickly, and the dark dramedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri getting the attention of the Academy, earning 2 awards at that year’s ceremony. It came as no surprise that his next feature film would also get award attention, with The Banshees of Inisherin already receiving a whopping 9 Academy Award nominations for the 2023 ceremony.
On a remote island off the coast of Ireland in 1923, Colm Doherty (played by Brendan Gleeson) abruptly ends his lifelong friendship with his mate Padraic (played by Colin Farrell), much to the shock of Padraic and the rest of the island. In order to keep Padraic away from Colm, he gives him an ultimatum: every time Padraic interacts with Colm, Colm will chop off one of his own fingers with a pair of shears. This leaves Padraic in even more confusion as he continuously tries and fails to repair their broken friendship.
I am gonna start off by saying this: this is not my kind of film. I mostly just had trouble staying invested due to its slow pace; in order to write this review I had to watch it twice because I fell asleep the first time (probably too much information there but onwards).
The premise for this film is definitely one of the more uniquely relatable premises I have heard of. I mean, we’ve all had that friendship that suddenly ends for one reason or another or a break-up with that girlfriend you didn’t see coming. However, to be driven to the point of self-mutilation just to make sure they leave you alone is another level. Putting simply, Colm gives his former friend Padraic the courtesy of honesty with the cutting of ties unlike how many modern relationships usually linger on the complete end and prolong the inevitable. The premise itself is also portrayed in such a way where we never take sides of the break up. In fact, we understand each perspective completely as one friend wants to work on his passion whilst the other is completely content with his small part of the world. While I do say their friendship could have been saved with some equal communication on both sides, that wasn’t the point. Colm wanted an end to the friendship so he ended it.
One of the aspects of this film that I feel truly earned its award nomination is the writing. Somehow the writing and dialogue of the film remained engaging despite its slow pace. It felt natural and was very hilarious at times with its dry jokes and use of obscenities. The writing was obscure and unique enough to grab your attention, but also relatable to the point where you could see it happening to yourself. Each interaction, each word of dialogue carried a heavy amount of sorrow, it only got heavier as the film progressed.
What elevated the script in the film are the performances, particularly from Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. A good performance can elevate bad writing, but great performances can really skyrocket the quality. Both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson really understand the characters they are portraying as much of their relationship, as it is just one friend outgrowing another. With each of their interactions, no matter how much anger or sadness they have, there is still a hefty amount of love and respect between the two. Both of their portrayals leave you understanding and sympathizing with both parties and unwilling to take sides, which makes it even more tragic as the film comes to its somber end.
Other aspects of the film to appreciate are the cinematography and the score. The score translates the melancholic mood of the film extremely well and is beautifully constructed. It happens to make you feel as if you are floating on air whilst simultaneously depressed, almost as if it were a dissociative episode. The Banshees of Inisherin did get nominated for Best Original Score and it is rightfully deserved. The cinematography is something else as it is a character in of itself, really putting in front and center whenever an argument takes place or giving a lovely wide shot of the Irish coastline.
Martin McDonagh is one of more irreverent voices when it comes to filmmaking as he always finds a way to blur the lines between tragedy and comedy. I will admit this is not my favorite of his, and the pacing may be a bit too slow for most. It is still a well crafted, gorgeous film. The cinematography, the score and the writing are all top notch. Additionally, the performances are both very subtle while simultaneously very loud as Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell bring their A-game and portray a deteriorating friendship heartbreakingly well. If there is ever a more poetic way to break up with somebody, The Banshees of Inisherin definitely tops the list of ways to do it. Just don’t be driven to the point where a person feels they must cut off their fingers.