(Beware: I present no blatant spoilers, but it’s impossible to discuss the plot and theme of the movie without hinting at certain developments.)
I fell in love with The Banshees Of Inisherin within the first thirty minutes of the film. The beautiful scenery, the clothing, the pacing, the seemingly simple story, the utter relatability–I instantly adored it.
Those first thirty minutes were simply brilliant. Colin Farrell plays Pádraic Súilleabháin, a plain man who enjoys spending time with his best friend, Colm Doherty, played by Brendan Gleeson. Their friendship is uncomplicated. They walk to the pub. They drink at the pub. They chat at the pub.
The year is 1923, and Inisherin is an island off the coast of Ireland. At the start of the film, Pádraic calls upon Colm to go to the pub. But Colm no longer wants to be friends. Pádraic, a man of practical thoughts, is bewildered by both the sudden development as well as the blatant rudeness. After all, Pádraic is a nice man, a good lad, and glad of it.
Colm eventually explains to Pádraic that he’s wasted away enough of his days. He needs to do something substantive. He’s tired of Pádraic’s boring conversation and lifestyle. Colm is devoting himself entirely to music from that moment forth.
At that point of the movie, I got it. I totally understood Colm’s point of view. However, Colm got downright nasty about it, and managed to hurt Pádraic’s feelings time after time. Pádraic’s sister, played magnificently by Kerry Condon, tries to smooth things over but ultimately tells Pádraic to simply let it go.
Eventually, Pádraic let’s Colm know how he feels, and that he’s okay with being nice, and polite. and maybe even boring. He takes pride in it. His parents were nice. His sister is nice. It’s okay to be nice. Oh, boy. At that point, Pádraic won me over. I too suffer from being perhaps overly nice and I could totally relate to his words.
Again, to that point, the simplicity of the story truly spoke to me. I understood both characters’ motivations. I could relate to both of them. I liked them both, though I must admit I liked Pádraic a little more.
And then the movie took quite a turn–a disturbing turn, honestly. It was still funny, to be sure, but Colm became unreasonably belligerent, Pádraic gave in to a darkness unknown, and things ended rather bleakly. I still liked the movie, most definitely, but it lost that charm I enjoyed during those first thirty minutes.
Which, I believe, was entirely the point. I’m sure this has already been thoroughly explored by others, but I can’t help wondering if Colm and Pádraic’s relationship mirrored that of Ireland itself. I think it cannot be an accident that the Irish Civil War raged on the mainland as their friendship fell apart. Colm became absurdly cruel as he sought only to serve his ideology and eventually drew Pádraic into a shared depravity–Pádraic, a man who previously concerned himself with only being nice, who wanted no trouble, and whose patience seemed unending. Shockingly violent acts seemed to be ignored by Inisherin residents at best and enjoyed by them at worst.
And what is this movie saying about kindness? Is it destined to be tainted? Will the world devour the nice if they don’t eventually join in the brutality? Must one be mean to survive?
As you can see, The Banshees Of Inisherin made quite an impression upon me. I highly recommend it, as you probably guessed.
By the way, I’d like to praise Barry Keoghan. I’ve seen this actor in a few things now and he impresses me with every outing. I think he is destined for great things. In this film, he plays Dominic, a fairly unintelligent fellow with few redeeming qualities. However, Keoghan somehow makes him very likable, especially because he’s always displaying a changing facial expression to let you know exactly what Keoghan is thinking, or, more accurately in many cases, not thinking. It’s marvelous, honestly.