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‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a true tour de force

Courtesy of IMDb

By Owen Glancy

Staff Writer

“The Banshees of Inisherin” may seem like a very simple film when viewed from the outside. The audience thinks, “Two friends parting can’t be that dramatic or interesting, right?” While you would be forgiven for thinking as such, this film is far deeper and more dramatic than its simple premise promises.

The rolling green hills and steep cliffs of the island of Inisherin dominate every scene, giving the audience a strange sense of familiarity with the island.

From the dimly lit pub to the busy port area, everything is shot beautifully. Inisherin’s beaches and cliffs are given special attention in relation to the cinematography, making them look eerie and imposing.

Cinematographer Ben Davis does an excellent job at highlighting shadows. The best example of this comes from late in the film where the central characters Pádraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty are having their final conversation on the beach. The almost overpowering brightness of the sun combined with the camera’s position behind the characters creates a beautiful shot of the two men’s silhouettes staring at the empty beach.

These pretty shots are only the tip of the iceberg. Director and writer Martin McDonagh uses the very effective technique of implementing a simple story with complex characters. This allows the film to be digestible yet remain engaging because of the multilayered characters.

The central duo is incredibly well written and acted. Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brenan Gleeson) both come across as sympathetic and human. Even before we see Colm cut Pádraic out of his life seemingly out of nowhere, we can still feel their years of friendship. The way Pádraic hangs around Colm’s house and discusses his concern for his friend with the bartender of the local pub tells us all we need to know about their relationship without ever needing to directly spell it out.

Farrell’s character is who we spend much of the film with, and it’s arguably his strongest performance. He expresses the slow change from subtle loneliness to intense depression easily.

Gleeson’s character, on the other hand, has a more complex shift in emotions throughout the film. His gained sense of freedom from splitting away from Pádraic, yet the loneliness that accompanies it is so well portrayed.

Pádraic’s sister also plays a crucial role in the story as a straight woman that keeps Pádraic grounded and sane. Kerry Condon’s performance is stellar and just as good as the leading men. Barry Keoghan is also in the film, playing the rebellious son of the island’s local police officer. While his performance is good, it does feel like we’ve seen it before, especially in how Keoghan is typecast.

As the story progresses, things begin to get more and more intense. From police brutality to bodily harm, it becomes increasingly difficult to predict what will happen. This gives the film an added sense of tension that will have you screaming at the film’s characters not to make any rash decisions.

The greatest aspect of the story is in how there is no clear right or wrong side of this argument. Some people will relate to the desperation and loneliness felt by Pádraic, while others will relate to the desire for self-improvement and hopelessness felt by Colm.

I personally agree with Colm, and felt that Pádraic was in the wrong, but I never felt disconnected from Pádraic, even if I didn’t agree with his increasingly dangerous and ignorant methods of trying to reconnect with Colm.

Despite how close this film comes, not everything is perfect. The one major hiccup is in how Keoghan’s character exits the film. His character is killed off in a shockingly grim and sudden way. It felt like his character arc hadn’t ended yet and that he still had room to do more in the story.

Even with this minor hiccup, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is undeniably a massive win for film. It shows what cinema can be like with an excellent cast, perfect direction, brilliant cinematography, and genius writing. This film truly is a masterpiece that only rarely releases, and you should do yourself a favor and see it as soon as possible.

A+: An emotional masterclass in film



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