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#TIFF22 Review: The Banshees of Inisherin (Special Presentations)

September 18, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

The 2022 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8th to 18th.

The Banshees of Inisherin, the latest brilliantly written character study from writer-director Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), tells the story of two friends; farmer Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and fiddler Colm (Brendan Gleeson), who live on a small island just off the coast of Ireland.

The two are drinking buddies who hang out at the local pub. Except one day, Colm chooses to ignore Pádraic when he comes around to see if he wants to go for their afternoon pint. Pádraic is confused as ever, but Colm explains that he has decided that he simply no longer likes Pádraic, and doesn’t want to be friends anymore. He is bored of their idle chatter, and wants to spend his time composing music instead.

Did something happen between them? The brilliance of McDonagh’s film, which is infused with pitch-black Irish humour, is that it keeps us guessing, as Pádraic gets driven crazy by trying to figure out Colm’s motivations. Pádraic doggedly pursues a reconciliation with his friend, but Colm is adamant about wanting to be left alone, and starts threatening self-injury. Through this simple but compelling setup, McDonagh has given us another rich, multilayered, allegorical work that is darkly funny until it becomes tragic and heartbreaking.

The film is carried by a pair of great performances from McDonagh’s In Bruges co-stars Farrell and Gleeson in an exceptional reunion. Farrell is at the top of his game here as a man whose own insecurities and resentments are unleashed due to the rejection of his friend. Meanwhile, Gleeson keeps everything internal in a measured performance that is always intriguing to watch.

The small ensemble is rounded out by Kerry Condon as Pádraic‘s sister who lives with him and tries to act as mediator, and Barry Keoghan as his other drinking buddy Dominic, who is known to be a “bit dim.” Keoghan especially leaves his mark on the film, taking a character who could have simply been annoying or creepy and bringing a level of sympathy to his portrayal, while also being incredibly funny in the socially awkward role.

Recalling the Coen Brothers at their most philosophical and existential, McDonagh’s ingenious screenplay for The Banshees of Inisherin offers many layers to unpack in its exploration of male friendship and ego, while offering deeper themes about what makes a meaningful friendship or even a meaningful life. Is “mindless chatter” enough, and is it okay to want something more out of a friendship if that’s all the other person is offering?

The film further comes alive thanks to a mesmerizing musical score by Carter Burwell, as well as impressive cinematography by Ben Davis, who captures the beauty of the Irish landscapes and frames some compellingly composed scenes between the characters. What a great and richly rewarding little film this is.

Public Screenings:

Monday, September 12th – 6:30 PM at VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales

Tuesday, September 13th – 1:30 PM at Royal Alexandra Theatre

Thursday, September 15th – 9:00 PM at Scotiabank 1

Saturday, September 17th – 8:30 PM at Royal Alexandra Theatre

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