The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)
October 29, 2022 9:55 PM - Subscribe

Two lifelong friends (Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell) find themselves at an impasse when one abruptly ends their relationship, with alarming consequences for both of them.

This film reunites director Martin McDonagh, Gleeson, and Farrell, years after their flawed classic, In Bruges. It's a cold bucket of water in the face, sure to give you nightmares if you have even the slightest social anxiety. Gleeson and Farrell turn in fine performances, but the film itself feels a little underbaked, and some of the less realistic aspects, which made sense in In Bruges's conscious slide into a Boschian world, do seem more puzzling here.

CN: a cute animal (not a dog) dies.
posted by praemunire (31 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
CN: a cute animal (not a dog) dies.

Also (from what I've heard) ... fingers?
posted by trig at 7:29 AM on October 30, 2022

Yes. Take the threat in the trailer seriously. But I am a bad person and don't mind the fingers, only the poor animal.
posted by praemunire at 9:39 AM on October 30, 2022 [2 favorites]

flawed classic, In Bruges


Sirens is maybe not as good, but it is pretty funny throughout, but also considerably bleaker, and if anything the humour does too much to leaven that bleakness.
posted by biffa at 1:20 AM on October 31, 2022 [1 favorite]


There is one line after which I would not blame audiences for walking out. It's required Christmas viewing around here, but I'm never comfortable recommending it without qualification.
posted by praemunire at 7:32 AM on October 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

CN: a cute animal (not a dog) dies.

A dealbreaker in this house. Thanks for the warning.
posted by Ber at 10:32 AM on October 31, 2022

Just saw it. I thought it was wonderful but my god is it bleak.
posted by knapah at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

Here's a long comment is full of spoilers. I've been thinking a lot about this film.

Bleak. Bleak. Bleak. Bleeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaak. This is about the bleakest movie I've ever seen. I think I like, and I think it's brilliant, but I didn't expect how dark this would go. Pádraic loses everything by the end of the movie: his sister, his best friend, his donkey, his "dim" younger friend, his own sense of himself as "one of the island's good guys" and his idea that goodness and niceness are the right things to be. Trying to be a good friend gets fingers thrown his way. The meaner he is, the more Colm likes him. All he previous goodness got him nowhere.

Some observations:

Obviously, it's an intentional move to set this against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, and I suppose the rift between Colm and Pádraic is intended to mirror the war to some extent, but I don't know how far to take that metaphor. Is Colm's self-mutilation symbolic of the way (some) Irish hurt themselves/their own communities when fighting against their former friends? It seems like it must be. Inisherin is isolated from the fighting on the mainland, but the isolation of island life also intensifies the interpersonal conflicts.

Colm buddies up the the abusive cop after ending his friendship with Pádraic, ditching a connection to the island's nicest guy to form a new one with the cruelest. Something within him is drawn to cruelty now.

There is zero romance on Inisherin. I don't think we ever see any husband/wife pairings. Pádraic's parents are dead. Mrs. McCormack doesn't seem to have a husband. Do we ever see the policeman's wife? Women are nearly completely absent. There are a couple of young women in the bar and there's the town gossip, but that's it. Siobhan, if anything, is even lonelier than Pádraic, lacking his connections to Colm and Dominic (and Jenny!) and having no possibility of female friends. All she has is her books (and a crush from the town simpleton.) We can't fault her for leaving the island (even though she's going to a war zone.)

Why doesn't Pádraic go with his sister? He has nothing left. Inisherin is his home, but it's hard to see any future for him there.

I've heard from people who laughed throughout the movie. I laughed some in the first half, but once the first finger comes off, it was too dark for me to laugh again, even though some of the lines were clearly meant to be humorous.

At age 50, I sympathize with Colm's desire to leave a legacy. It's common to think "what am I going to leave behind?" But this movie raises questions about that. Which is the better life: one where you are remembered for your accomplishments or one where you were a good friend? Sure, we all know who Mozart is (except Pádraic!) but what difference does that make to Mozart now? What's the point of being remembered when you aren't here to appreciate it? Maybe in a hundred years Colm's songs will be sung, but is that worth what he does to Pádraic?

I don't think I've ever felt such foreboding as when Pádraic goes back to Colm's house after the first finger-ectomy. He's so happy--so sure that there's a way back to friendship with Colm--but we know exactly where this is going. It's his good-hearted unwillingness to believe that the friendship is really over that keeps driving the tragedy.

So, Mrs. McCormack--she's a banshee, right? Symbolically, at least. Colm said banshees are still around, but they don't wail anymore, just observe. She portends the deaths, and she's always around, watching. I think the movie might have been better without that character--she isn't really needed, but I didn't find her presence overly distracting.

Even though I'm still working through how I feel about the story, this movie is artistically brilliant. Throw awards at Gleeson, Farrell, Keoghan, and Condon--and also Carter Burwell for his amazing score and Ben Davis for the cinematography. I've never been more impressed with Farrell, in particular. Just a perfectly tuned performance. He never goes too big in scenes when other actors would be tempted to yell. Even when he burns Colm's house, it's clearly motivated by deep sadness more than anger.

"How's the despair?" "It's come back a bit, I'm afraid." All that finger-chopping and composing, and still the despair is there, and now despair has take over Pádraic and caused Dominic to take his life. The island is just overflowing with despair, except from Mrs. McCormack, who revels in the misery. It's a good thing Siobhan seized her chance to leave.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:31 AM on November 8, 2022 [25 favorites]

Just saw this last night. Soooo good, soooo heart-breaking. As said above, the performances are perfect. The humor throughout -- even after Colm's self-mutilations -- just adds to the gut-punch of the film's ending. Loss upon irrevocable loss.
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:38 AM on November 8, 2022

I loved this, but if I'd been told the plot in advance, I'd have refused to watch it. "Your best friend suddenly cuts you off because you're a dull waste of time and then your dumb beloved pet does eating something she shouldn't" is a horror movie. Martin McDonagh is a hell of a filmmaker.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:37 PM on November 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

I suppose the rift between Colm and Pádraic is intended to mirror the war to some extent, but I don't know how far to take that metaphor.

I think that's kind of the heart of it, though I'm not well versed enough in Irish history to be able to parse it all out. Like, I read in an article somewhere that the name "Inisherin" would translate to "Island of Ireland," suggesting a sort of allegory/microcosm.

There seems to be a generational element between the two men. Colm is older, he seems to represent culture and tradition - not just his music, but notice his home is full of artistic artifacts, whereas Pádraic's is rather plain and unadorned. Which just makes the finger-cutting more painful - the one thing he says he wants from the rest of his life, he destroys just to be stubborn? Meanwhile, the slow transformation of Pádraic, from the amiable, dull but charming and goofy friend, to an embittered loner just as capable of senseless violence. I mean, that last scene on the beach... "Well, you survived, so it's not over then, is it?" - which he says with a voice full of spite and a chest full of anger, he who was so pleasant and warm just a few days ago. So damn heartbreaking.
posted by dnash at 3:51 PM on December 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

I suppose the rift between Colm and Pádraic is intended to mirror the war to some extent, but I don't know how far to take that metaphor.

That's how I took it. But I'm not comfortable enough in my understanding of the war during that time period to chart it out with any level of detail.

It's a pretty fantastic movie, though.

Colin Farrell really just needed to age out of being so distractingly beautiful so that he could find his true calling as a terrific character actor.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:52 AM on December 19, 2022 [9 favorites]

I really liked it. The bleakness fits my sense of humor. Especially like the look from Kerry Conden when the village gom says "touché" and Pádraic doesn't get it. Dimmest man in the village ranking in flux! I also like Pádraic's apparent need to light a bunch of lanterns just so they can be carried five feet and smashed angrily.

Acc to the credits Brendan Gleeson composed the song his character composes in the movie which is fun to know.

Colin Farrell is maybe the best actor I don't like. I will see anything he's in, even in that awful movie with artisanal teas and the clone servant. Immense respect. Best actor of his age maybe? But I don't like him. Perfect casting in this movie.
posted by fleacircus at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I appreciated the shopkeeper as a type in Irish towns, like the middle-aged lady busybody in Brooklyn who (spoiler): finds out the main characters secret and tries to threaten her with it because knowing everybody's business is just what that person in the town does.

I felt like Colm's rant about the time he's "wasted" listening to Pádraic was a bit of commentary from the filmmaker about social media and how much time we waste on it not engaged with the world.

As a meditation on what it means to live a meaningful life I thought it was really well done.

Also the scenery was something else. I spent a day on the Aran Islands about 20 years ago, and aside from standing on the cliffs where Pádraic waves goodbye to Siobhan, the wandering I did really didn't do the place justice. Colm had gotten too depressed and stubborn to see that living out his days sitting in his rocking chair overlooking the bay and playing his violin is a dotage many of us would trade for in a heartbeat.
posted by dry white toast at 10:47 PM on December 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

I just watched this on HBO Max and really liked it. I thought Colin Farrell was perfect in it. It maybe goes beyond bleak and yet I laughed a lot too. The scenery was beautiful as were the sets and costumes. IMDb says one elderly man made all the sweaters. Siobhan wore colorful yellows and reds and patterns, and Colm at one point had a dull gold sweater that matched the walls in his house.
posted by Sukey Says at 2:28 AM on December 22, 2022

Ooof. So many feelings about this one. Colin Farrell was outstanding (and gets a special award for Best Use of Eyebrows) as was Brendan Gleeson (Best Face for World-Weariness). Absolutely gorgeous movie, too: sets, props, landscape, music, costume were all just right and felt organic. But the bleakness--my God. Not just the civil war between men, but within them as well.

Today, I am thinking about: seeing awful things and the decision to act on that knowledge or not; the currency of gossip; the failure/ inaction of institutions; the inability to express despair (or, maybe worse, to increasingly act it out to the indifference of onlookers); the weight of loneliness; the doubling down on self-violence; and how the death of a loved creature can reveal the tenuous bonds holding us together. (Fleabag: People are shit. Belinda: People are all we have. I kept thinking about that scene, and about the masculinities of Banshees, and Siobhan yelling about another silent man, and please, someone direct me to a good and thoughtful piece about male friendship, loneliness, and silence. "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.") By God, I'll make you choose being alive if I have to kill you myself is dark, dark stuff.

Jenny's death made me cry, and I couldn't stop from that moment until the movie ended. Some animals get the good quilt.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:28 PM on December 22, 2022 [6 favorites]

I hadn’t seen any previews for this and was somehow under the impression that was a maybe slightly dark slice-of-life comedy with a few bits of drama thrown in. It appeared to be proceeding more or less as expected until he cut off his finger. At which point I stopped, skimmed this thread, and told my spouse, “I think this is not the movie for me tonight”.
posted by skycrashesdown at 6:40 AM on January 5, 2023 [3 favorites]

Remembering Gleeson punching the air with his mangled hand to emphasize the notes as the music students learn his piece from him. He wants it to be more, to get more out of these notes, but there is no more.
posted by fleacircus at 11:13 PM on January 5, 2023 [1 favorite]

That's right Siobhan, get the fuck outta there.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:23 AM on January 15, 2023 [6 favorites]

Remembering Gleeson punching the air with his mangled hand to emphasize the notes as the music students learn his piece from him.

This was a moment that broke immersion for me, because....he's splattering blood on the table and no one reacts??? There is this extremist violent element in McDonagh's work that I do think is more tolerable in more abstract and stylized plays than in movies that he largely directs in a naturalist style. There's a reason why people aren't rushing to film Titus Andronicus, yet it still gets staged, you know?
posted by praemunire at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

It was a little jarring, though I thought the movie already had a foot in storyland, so it didn't break the spell for me. I hadn't bought into the naturalism. And the strangeness of that moment called me back to appreciate it. "Make sense of this!!!" I like when things are fingerposted har.

I think the bread truck joke was a little more jarring to me, like no no, don't go too far into Toon Town.
posted by fleacircus at 8:06 PM on January 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I loved this, but if I'd been told the plot in advance, I'd have refused to watch it.

Me too! I knew nothing whatsoever about the movie going in.

It's so spare. You can project so many of your own thoughts and feelings into it.

I'd like to second everything Pater Alethias and MonkeyToes said, and also mention a few things that came to mind: the very public confessional; Colm's heartbreakingly short-lived kindness to Pádraic when the abusive cop punches him outside the shop; how eerie it was that Colm's house was full of artifacts from elsewhere. Also the dissatisfied loners I know who've pushed people away; the frustrated artists afraid of their own mediocrity; the seeds of those traits in myself. So many destructive justifications emerging from tangled, multi-layered, contradictory desires to create and connect.
posted by tangerine at 12:35 PM on January 19, 2023 [3 favorites]

I am still shocked at how the look of the film - colors, costumes, landscape, animals, actors - contrasts with the story and message. The film, first shot of which is Pádraig with a *rainbow over his shoulder*, shows just how grating it must have felt to live on a beautiful island with such a little group of people. The fact that Siobhan made it out (even into the civil war!) felt like the kindest thing about it. The aesthetic made me think of sentimental Irish films (my beloved Secret of Roan Inish) and then I got slapped by the Beckett of it all. I sobbed over Jenny and the senselessness. But I am still thinking about it. So well done, McDonagh.
posted by Lookinguppy at 2:47 PM on January 23, 2023 [2 favorites]

I really enjoyed this, as bleakly beautiful landscapes and dark humour are right in my wheelhouse, but in quite a few ways it reminded me of basically an incredibly grim episode of Father Ted.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:12 AM on January 26, 2023 [2 favorites]

I've had a couple of friendships just sort of end on me inexplicably; so when I was walking into the theater, I was expecting I would side with Padraig. But when I heard Colm talking of his artistic aspirations, and how faffing around with others was keeping him from doing that...I started to see his side.

Deep ideas, couched in some REALLY violent imagery.

See this on the big screen if you can; as my roommate quipped, it's shot like it's an ad for Irish tourism.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:26 AM on January 30, 2023 [1 favorite]

The mistake is to think this film is about Pádraic and Colm; it's really about Siobhan. She's the main character.
posted by chavenet at 4:18 AM on February 4, 2023 [2 favorites]

praemunire: “This was a moment that broke immersion for me, because....he's splattering blood on the table and no one reacts???”
A friend asked me to watch the picture this afternoon, so I did, not really knowing anything about it. This was the point where I realized that this movie couldn't be understood as a narrative, only a metaphor.

It's finely acted and impeccably shot, but it was not conventionally enjoyable.
posted by ob1quixote at 3:22 PM on February 18, 2023 [1 favorite]

So, finally got to see it, and really "enjoyed" it. I've never gotten the appeal of Colin Farrell but he put in a fantastic performance here. As did everyone else.

It raises a lot of questions for me as Ireland-raised Irish, as to how people internationally are watching it. I suspect, partially from the responses in the thread, that it's not obvious how very fantastical it is. This is heavy-handidly signalled at the start with the rainbow over the shoulder, but the Oirishness is turned pretty much to 12 the whole way through.

This then brings me to wonder if McDonagh (born and raised in England) knows it's screwed to 12 ofr if he just thinks it's at 11. And of course leads me to wonder how much my own colonised ass knows, considering the only media I have accessed (have access to?) myself about those times and places are from depictions by national romantic authors decades later. Where does the line go between again, magical realism and genuine tragicomedy in even contemporary stuff like Casey's work. How much does the fact that even "first source" material like that of Peig Sayers comes to us through transcription and translation affect the image I have of ye olde days.
posted by Iteki at 6:10 AM on February 24, 2023 [7 favorites]

To an American, it definitely reads as having a folk-tale quality, right up to the precipitating incident of a person suddenly and without explanation deciding to end a long-standing status quo ("One day, when Farrell called for him at his home, Gleeson didn't answer; and he did not go to the pub, at least not when Farrell could see him"); I was putting it in the perspective of some of his earlier work, where people stare at Bosch paintings and trespass on film productions shooting dream sequences with little people, all in a setting explicitly characterized as "a fucking fairy tale." There's a lot of radical foreshortening in McDonagh's work, which comes partially from his stage background, but sometimes it works for him and sometimes he can't quite manage it in a way that brings the audience along with him.
posted by praemunire at 7:38 AM on February 24, 2023 [3 favorites]

… but in quite a few ways it reminded me of basically an incredibly grim episode of Father Ted
I like to think of Craggy Island as lying not so far from Innisherin - I was going to say a happier island but Father Ted was pretty grim - just played as comedy. Musically and stylistically Banshees struck me as being operatic. Lots of metaphor too - even in the shots of the warring seagulls. And some talented animals acting also.
posted by rongorongo at 4:10 AM on April 1, 2023

Just watched this and still processing it. But I definitely took it as a fable rather than a slice of life. I felt so much for Siobhan when she told Colm he was just like the rest of them. He wanted to think he was so cultured and above it all, but he was just as stoically, grimly depressed as the rest. She had a banshee beckoning to her, and did the smart thing by fleeing to a bloody war zone instead. It proves that she really is as smart as they all said she was.

God I hated that cop. Just every moment he was on-screen or mentioned gave me another reason to despise him. A bloodthirsty ghoul.
posted by harriet vane at 8:06 AM on July 28, 2023 [1 favorite]

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