Film Review for The Banshees of Inisherin by Mari Fitzpatrick

2022 ‧ Comedy/Drama ‧ 1h 54m
From Searchlight Pictures and writer-director Martin McDonagh

The face of the crucified Christ hangs on the wall inside Colm Doherty’s house. It anchors the cinematic voice onto the old whaling beach at Keem, on Achill Sound, where a lot of 'Banshees' was shot. This is the beach where Colm Doherty, the antagonist, makes his music.

In real life, Keem is a small, white-sand beach that is pegged by high cliffs on three sides and accessed by a cliff road with just enough room for two cars to pass-by each other. It's a wild and beautiful spot that pours itself into the Atlantic to harvest light and shade. The same textures that are used in the storyline that weaves scents, scenery, and music through the 'Cain and Abel' plot that explores ego.

Between its covers, we meet, Padraig and Colm, two lifelong friends, and get to know them through their social interaction with family and community. We learn that they get along the best until one day one of them decides to change. And the opening scene pans the Aran Island landscape to introduce the characters and set the story on its way as the sound of faint gunfire occasionally echoes from the mainland.

Synge's Playboy of The Western World was produced in the Abbey pre 1910, it brought people onto the streets to protest at its plotline, to protest the celebrations around the so called murder of the thuggish father. Can you hear Christy Mahon’s’ voice echo in Dominic Kearney’s’ character portrayal here?

Opening Shot
Padraig (the protag) walks up the bridle path to Colm’s house to call-in for him to go for their usual afternoon pint and chat in the local bar, when he doesn't answer, he goes on by himself explaining to the barman, who has the pints waiting for the boys, that he wasn't there, 'Colm wasn't home.'

Encouraged by JohnJo, the barman, to find out what happened, he goes back to the house and has no luck, so he returns to the bar to find Colm sitting at the counter intent on ignoring him, and when he inquires as to his reasons he is taken aback when Colm answers: 'I don't want to be your friend anymore, Padraig'

And so it goes, as against Colm's wishes Padraig sets out to fix the relationship, but Colm is adamant that he does not want it fixed, he finds Padraig's friendship boring and he wants to contribute more to life. Colm Doherty wants to compose tunes, to write and play music, he’s fed up with the empty chats about bits found in donkey shite. And as the toing and froing becomes more dramatic bloodthirsty egos fire up to override all life bearing gifts.

Colm fiddles and life burns. Padraig chats and worlds collapse.

Will you ever forget:
The naked policeman asleep on the armchair. The one liners served up in Barry Keoghan's perfectly timed interjections ... Mrs McCormick, she who foretells of death and explains life, -the seer, wrapped in her black shawl, smoking her clay pipe, -- was it Kylemore Lake she was standing on as she viewed the outcome of her premonitions? Did a shiver run down your spine too when you saw the death of democracy, when you saw the day the music died, or is that what it was, and if so how many small incidences built up to the final explosion?

Siobhan Súilleabhain, (played by Kelly Condon) is the female lead, she adds a wholesome charm and femininity to the plotline. She’s Padraig’s sister and acts as his housekeeper, educated and looking to the mainland for work, her touch is sure. She asks the questions for the viewer. The why, who, what, where, and she supplies the answers through a believable sanity, the way of her character adds heart as she makes room for Domic Kearney, and Mrs McCormick to step-in-time along the trail. There’s one very lovely scene between herself and Domnic who has notions.

The West of Ireland is heart stopping in any weather, I hear about places that are more beautiful than Connemara, than Achill, than Aran, but I have yet to visit any, I have been to places, in the US, Canada, Australia, UK and Europe, in Africa that equal its beauty, but I have found it hard to find any that equals its charm. Beauty and terror are two sides of the same coin in McDonagh’s tale: they are the backdrop that outlines the terror and loveliness that is trapped within the emotion that drives the human condition.

Sometimes there is no rebirth or resurrection, no baby wrapped in swaddling clothes for the farm animals to keep warm. Sometimes there's just broken friendships and the sound of war scattered in the wind. Sometimes there’s just horror left over from the show.

Banshees is a finely tuned character driven story that through the use of metaphor, and careful naming treads grace notes through a timeline that serviced award winning Irish art and literature; and revolution and civil war that divided families, friends, and ultimately a country.

A tale entwined around ego and how it explodes one’s reality.

Marie Fitzpatrick 22/1/2023

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