Review of “The Banshees of Inisherin”: Existential Crisis on an Irish island

Nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture, Martin McDonagh's new black comedy navigates existential angst from the sudden breakup of a friendship. This is our review of "The Banshees of Inisherin"..

Still from the film 'The Spirits of the Island'

Photo: YT-20th Century Studios

LatinAmerican Post | Juan Andrés Rodríguez

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Leer en español: Reseña de “Los Espíritus de la Isla”: Crisis existencial en una isla irlandesa

As the Irish Civil War (1923) ends, across the sea, on the fictional island of Inisherin, a conflict begins when Colm (Brendan Gleeson) decides overnight to end his lifelong friendship with Pádraic (Colin Farrell). ), on the grounds that he finds it boring. Bewildered by the cruelty of someone he believed to be his friend, Pádraic refuses to settle for the company of his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and the village idiot, Dominic (Barry Keoghan), so he persists in resuming his relationship with Colm, who takes macabre actions to keep his distance.

With this premise, Martin McDonagh ("Three announcements for a crime") builds a peculiar atmosphere, with music by Carter Burwell, for a story that addresses the existential crisis from the restlessness with the family and the loss of an illusion. This easily dreary theme is boldly shaped by McDonagh with a simple and humorous script, written specifically for his four leads (Farrell, Gleeson, Condon and Keoghan), who do an amazing job well worth their nominations.

Loneliness in the family

At first, "The Banshees of Inisherin" presents Colm as a stoic and cruel subject, but the origin of this attitude is soon understood as a response to depression. Brendan Gleeson portrays the vulnerability of his character without resorting to the emotional extreme. He appears certain about his decision, when really he is desperate to find a way out of the bewilderment caused by the fear of oblivion.

Colm sees in art the only valid way to build a legacy, which he understands as the work that lasts for centuries. He then concentrates on forming bonds with musicians to compose a melody. In the midst of his ambition and anguish for time, he sees no purpose for Pádraic and therefore treats him with indifference and hostility. Faced with this explanation, Pádraic replies that kindness also lasts in the memories of a loved one, and that your goal to leave a legacy should not imply giving up being kind.

This gives relevance to the war situation: Isn't war the renunciation of kindness in search of a legacy? This requires the conviction that it is valid to cause suffering to the other if it allows the objective to be met, to declare victory among the ashes and to endure in history and collective memory.

In parallel is the arch of Siobhán. Kerry Condon plays a strong-willed woman, someone who is not willing to take nonsense, but compassionate about the feelings of others. In the midst of the frustration of being an intelligent person, alienated by her environment, she recognizes that the search for personal fulfillment should not be synonymous with narcissism, but that in some cases it implies making decisions that affect close people.

Read also: These Are the 5 Great Absentees of the Oscar 2023 Nominees

The loss of an illusion

Colm's dissatisfaction with his life in Inisherin contrasts with the happiness that Pádraic conveys from his first moment on screen. He is a man without great ambitions, who finds fulfillment in the midst of routine, like pampering his mini donkey Jenny and sharing a beer every day with his best friend. Here, Colin Farrell shines with a charming innocence that is gradually lost in mourning for a friendship. Her gestures capture emotions that range from disappointment, denial, anger, and the longing to regain her safe place.

Serving up for Pádraic is Dominic, a reckless young man unaware of his limitations, but genuinely acting with good intentions. Although his presence is short, Barry Keoghan finds the perfect tone to achieve an endearing character, who overcomes the mockery and abuse of his peers. Keoghan stars in one of the most devastating moments in the film, when he faces rejection and with a broken heart must say goodbye to a dream.

"The Banshees of Inisherin" explores different ways to combat loneliness and seek fulfillment. The apparent solution of one character is the cause of anguish for another. Hilarious, moving, devastating and highly memorable moments abound, thanks to masterful performances by its cast, inviting us to reflect on whether we've given up kindness to pursue a goal and hurt a loved one in the process. "The Banshees of Inisherin" wonders about the concept of legacy and problematizes the idea that this is a work that transcends our existence, but that ignores the memories we leave with those we share.

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