Five years after dropping Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, writer/director Martin McDonagh is back with another Oscar-worthy triumph – The Banshees of Inisherin. Emotionally gruelling and beautifully deep, this is a showcase of exceptional storytelling headlined by a duo of mesmerising performances.
Martin McDonagh has crafted a deeply moving and emotionally-complex narrative that’s methodical in its pacing and immensely captivating from scene to scene. It follows two lifelong best friends who hit a roadblock when one friend abruptly calls an end to their friendship – a decision that has dramatic repercussions for both individuals. McDonagh’s remarkable writing talents are on full display, and it’s down to one key detail. We never actually get to see first-hand just how close Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Pádraic (Colin Farrell) were as best friends before their ‘breakup’, but we don’t need to. All of that is brilliantly translated through perfectly-written dialogue and interactions, both between the two of them as well as with other supporting characters. It’s not easy to capture a lifetime of history in the opening act of a two-hour film, but McDonagh accomplishes exactly that.
As slow-paced as it may be, this is not a story that drags, meanders or becomes stagnant at all. The emotional tension is consistently being ramped up, keeping you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of every character’s next move. It’s never entirely clear which direction things are heading, with so much of the story’s progression coming down to tense character decisions that could go either way. Every character, right down to the supporting roles, is greatly fleshed out and developed over the course of the film. This is not a situation where characters go through tough life experiences only to end up unfazed. The character development is at times subtle and at times very thorough. It all work to ensure decisions and motivations over the course of the film are understood, making the characters feel very real and allowing audiences to empathise with them.
As of right now, this is my personal pick for the Oscar for Original Screenplay, but it’s also my pick in the lead actor category. Firstly, Colin Farrell is undeniably phenomenal. He’s in almost every scene and elevates the film through powerful, emotionally-charged dialogue that effectively communicates the way his character is feeling in every moment. The nuances in his performance really sell the emotional turmoil of the situation, boosting the effectiveness and believability of his character’s overall arc. Taking the route of minimal dialogue, Brendan Gleeson delivers an alluring performance. He may not say a lot, but he puts a tonne of heart and passion behind every line which in turn enhances the impact of his character’s polarising decisions. There’s many scenes in which he says so much without saying a single word. A single stern look speaks volumes in letting us into his psyche.
On top of those two performances, you also have Barry Keoghan (Dominic) who shines so brightly he even steals a couple of scenes from under the noses of Farrell and Gleeson. I love this man as a character actor – he completely disappears into every one of his roles, and that’s no different here. He nails the quirks of his character’s speech and mannerisms so perfectly that you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a real person and not a character. You feel for the character in every moment, and that’s all down to Keoghan’s remarkable acting abilities.
In the end, The Banshees of Inisherin is absolutely one of the year’s most well-crafted films, expertly written and directed by Martin McDonagh. It’s a touching, heartbreaking narrative that will pull on your heartstrings and keep you on the edge of your seat in total suspense. Cinematographer Ben Davis turns every scene into a moving artwork, while a lineup of outstanding performances take the emotional tension up to an 11. Bleak and emotionally gruelling, this poignant narrative is a must-watch.