Movies

'The Banshees of Inisherin' Review: Colin Farrell Just Wants A Friend

This hysterical anti-buddy comedy set during the Irish Civil War is one of the best films of the year.

A still from "The Banshees of Inisherin" is shown.
Toronto International Film Festival
SMS

"The Banshees of Inisherin" is a movie about how far a person will go to make a friend regret ghosting him.

Okay, it's about so much more, but if you wanted to watch Academy Award-winner Martin McDonagh's allegorical film simply as a goofy romp, you'd probably enjoy yourself all the same.

Set against a backdrop of the Irish Civil War in the early 20th century, Colin Farrell plays Pádraic, a well-meaning and rather simple-minded guy who lives with his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon from "Better Call Saul") in a remote town just off the mainland. His best friend is Colm (Brendan Gleeson), except whoops, not anymore. 

Colm suddenly, without any real explanation, wants nothing to do with Pádraic. Has he done something wrong? Apparently not, but Colm wants the two to go their separate ways. 

Imagine your longtime best friend in a place where the only social activity is drinking at the local pub, and avoiding one another is nearly impossible, telling you to get lost forever. Sad. I know I'd want some closure. Pádraic does too, and he goes to hilariously awkward, painstaking lengths to get it from Colm as Siobhán pleads with her brother to leave well enough alone. 

The main selling point of "Banshees" is Farrell and Gleeson's reunion with writer-director McDonagh after their beloved 2008 collaboration "In Bruges."

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It may actually exceed expectations: I was all in on the early hype after screening "Banshees" at The Toronto International Film Festival in September, and I only feel more admiration for the movie now as it gets a limited theatrical release this weekend.

This is Farrell's career-best performance and likely time for him to receive his first Oscar nomination. Farrell has displayed impressive range throughout his career — particularly over the last decade or so — but his balance here between lovable, empty-headed doofus and righteously vengeful frenemy is perfectly played. Likewise, despite breaking our dear Pádraic's heart, Gleeson as Colm manages to never feel like an adversary. The more we sit with these two men, the more we come to understand and appreciate where they're both coming from, not just Pádraic.

I really want to shout out Condon, who is also deserving of awards recognition for stealing every scene she's in, for creating a fully formed character separate from her brother despite the brief time we spend with her perspective. Siobhán brings a lighthearted, sweet emotional depth to a bizarre rivalry involving her brother and his once-friend who leans on her to get Pádraic out of his hair. Barry Keoghan as Dominic, something of the town idiot, provides additional comic relief to what's already a wildly oddball comedy.

McDonagh, coming off his celebrated yet divisive "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," gets the absolute most out of his talented cast. His screenplay is consistently hilarious and clever, while keeping much heavier ideas about human nature just below the surface for us to mull over as much or little as we want. It's subtle yet ever-present, like the gunfire Pádraic and Colm hear just across the water as they argue over nothing.