Last week the biggest film produced in this part of the world since The Quiet Man in 1952, was released. Written and Directed by Martin Macdonagh who is reunited with his In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.
There is a lot of hype around this film and the expectations are it will do very well come awards season. I will say I really did not enjoy McDonaghs last two films. Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboards really rubbed me the wrong way, especially Three Billboards which I found deeply silly and uninteresting after a great opening 10 minutes.
However if you managed to catch Druid’s production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane in 2016 or I’m sure any of the other productions of his stage work, you’ll know he can be an absolutely incredible writer. Banshees was written originally as a play and you feel that. There are only 3/4 interior locations used in the whole film.
The film is about Colm and Padraic, they are drinking buddies on an island off the coast of Galway in the 1920s. One day Colm informs Padraic he is sick of being friends with him due to his inane chat and that he finds him boring. Colm is in the midst of an existential crisis.
He has become aware of his own mortality and will not waste any more of his life with small talk.
We’ve all been there.
The two have a kind of Father Ted and Dougal energy to them and it all starts out very funny. Don’t get comfortable though (this is a McDonagh film after all ), when Padraic refuses to listen, Colm gives him an ultimatum. The next time you speak me, I’ll take my sheep shears and cut off one of my fingers and I’ll do it again and again till I have two stumps for hands, he says.
Colms decision has a profound effect on Padraic, suddenly he has has more to contemplate than what is in his donkey’s shite. He has to start to consider some uncomfortable truths about himself and how he effects the people around him. Colm eventually awakens something else in Padraic, anger. This seems to interest Colm but he continues his silent treatment.
At first Colm just seems grumpy but when he is in confession, discussing his despair, we see there is something more going on. He is struggling with his own mental health, I think its fair to say there is some narcissism at work.
The film is set on the made up island of Inisherin (literally the island of Ireland ), it is also set in 1922 during the civil war. So a pretty straight forward metaphor? There is also civil war on Inisherin, the spat between the two lads. I mean as a metaphor it is a little on the nose, isn’t it? I suppose that’s not really a bad thing, often writer/directors can get bogged down in layering and subtext.
I was just expecting something more when I heard the era it was set in. The Civil War does set up the best joke of the film though.I think the most interesting element of the story is how one man’s despair not only damages his own life but the lives of people on the island.
Towards the end of the film he has turned a nice man into to an angry man and almost violent one. Lots of very upsetting parallels today.
The two main actors are fantastic as expected. I hope finally Farrell or Gleeson will get a Oscar nomination. Hard to believe neither have received one despite their great careers. There are other excellent performances, Kerry Condon who plays Padraic’s sister is a great anchor for the film and Barry Keoghan steals every scene he is in with his unusual and I might say, very west of ireland, energy. All those plaudits are well deserved but the strongest part of the film isn’t the acting, writing or directing.
Ben Davis the cinematographer does an absolutely fantastic job making the film look spectacular. You’ve never seen the west of ireland look this good. Failte Ireland should ask for any discarded footage he may have lying around.
It’s just a stunningly beautiful film.I really did enjoy Banshees a lot. It’s not like any film I’ve seen before in the sense, I laughed all the way through the film, but I left the cinema quite sad. It stayed with me for a long time and I’ve thought about plenty since the screening. Also a great one to chat about afters, if you arrange to see this with some pals I’d suggest planning a pint or coffee after to discuss.