The Banshees Of Inisherin
It is still a Thursday and we are just a day away from the weekend yet the new releases have started to pour. With that I have finished watching the new English film The Banshees Of Inisherin which is now streaming on Hotstar. Yes, the Oscar fever is slowly rising and you will be seeing more of such films which are potentially in the race to lift the prestigious trophy(list not announced yet but this is more on assumption). And I had heard many good things about The Banshees Of Inisherin which is directed by Martin McDonagh who had earlier directed Three Billboards, a film that I had adored. So I was keenly awaiting its OTT release and the film finally did make its way to Hotstar post which I did grab my chance of watching it. So then is The Banshees Of Inisherin worth your time, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay
Set against the tail end of the Irish Civil War, The Banshees Of Inisherin follows the story of the friendship between two individuals that does go sour after one of them ends things rather abruptly. The story here does unfold like a slice of life film yet it is one of the best tragicomedies that I have watched in a long time. The screenplay standing at a shade under 120 minutes does have a lot of things to offer with layers within layers that does make this a memorable watch. This review will contain mild spoilers, so viewers discretion advised!
The first thing that did catch my attention was the scenic landscapes of Inisherin, a small island off the coast of the mainland. The visuals were breathtaking and almost like a postcard in an island which was privy to the leisurely pace that life had to offer. We are introduced to the two protagonists with distinct character traits – one being the sensitive and ‘dull’ individual and the other recluse and stone-hearted. It is implied that the two of them were best of friends until the latter begins to ignore the former almost suddenly.
Now these sort of stories I generally would associate with Malayalam films from the writing stand point – A Simple story but a complex screenplay is what formulates The Banshees Of Inisherin. There is an underlying message of friendship right at the beginning with a subtle sense of black humour which is sprinkled throughout the narrative. The layered drama is a slow burn and the pacing here allows you to invest well in the characters. The proceedings do unfold from the point of view of one of the individuals yet there is a sense of equilibrium that is maintained throughout the film that doesn’t allow the viewers to take sides. What does begin like a tale of friendship gone awry soon turns chaotic with a massive ego tussle that unfolds.
There is a sense of upmanship between the two proragonists although it is a far cry from the one in Ayyapannum Koshiyum. The toxicity here is not alpha but instead more self inflicting. What does seem like a casual statement by one of the protagonists soon turns into reality in a shocking and gruesome turn of events that will make you squirm yet make you laugh in a weird sense. In between, there are a couple of subplots involving the other people on the island that is handled with sensitivity yet keeping the eventual tragedy in mind. Things only keep getting worse by the minute that does lead to a death on the island following which all hell breaks loose! In between there are also moments of softness between the two protagonists that does show their care for one another. One instance being, the character of Colm smacking a policeman who was bad mouthing Padraic after the latter’s donkey had died of a stray incident. The concepts of depression and loneliness are nicely touched upon as well.
The turn of events in the climax are tragic and this was far from a ‘feel good’ ending here. Instead I was really feeling hollow in what was a ‘feel bad’ ending of sorts. You could still see the mutual admiration for one another in their eyes with one of them also being thankful for saving his dog and not extracting revenge on the poor animal. Yet the writers do draw a parallel to the Irish War by stating through one of the characters that History will continue to reoeat itself, nothing will change till people are alive(paraphrased). The two protagonists too find themselves in a similar situation as the war where an eye for an eye does make the whole world blind. Yet there is a glimmer of hope right at the end of a sort of a truce which is hinted at. Overall, a brilliantly penned screenplay that is layered in many ways where things are implied rather than layed out!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are conversational and they are subtly hilarious. But as the drama progresses, the tone of the dialogues do get a little serious too making for an impactful watch. The BGM is soft and blends perfectly with the leisurely paced life of Inisherin. The cinematography is beautiful and some of the frames are just to die for! Almost every frame is a postcard yet the frames add the adequate ambience to the drama signifying the calm before the storm. Director Martin McDonagh who had previously directed Three Billboards, in is top form here. He is able to carve a drama that begins as a slice of life with the element of friendship at the centre of it, yet it leads to an ego tussle and the eventual tragedy, thereby keeping the viewers engaged throughout. The direction is brilliant here!
The performances are subtle and understated yet phenomenal here. Barry Keoghan as Dominic is sincere and affable and he was such a natural onscreen. Kerry Condon as Siobhan is fiery on the outside but supposedly is carrying a mountain of pain inside here and she does a terrific job here in essaying a rather layered character. Brendan Gleeson as Colm is beautifully understated in a character who has a streak of madness to it. His camaraderie with Padraic is infectious in a rather subtle manner. Colin Farrell as Padraic is absolutely brilliant here, right from his character traits to his mannerisms. There is a subtle and layered tone to his character suffering from loneliness, in what is a phenomenal act in every sense of the word.
The Banshees Of Inisherin is a brilliant ‘feel bad’ tragicomedy that comes with my highest recommendation. Available on Hotstar.