REVIEW: The Banshees Of Inisherin is not In Bruges 2, and here's why that's great
The reunion of the cast and creator of In Bruges arrives in Irish cinemas this week.
In Bruges was very much of its time. The 2008 darkly comic crime thriller felt like it was nodding towards the smart-alec humour and dour sense of foreboding that had been distilled into Hollywood through the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie.
Its leading man Colin Farrell was only 32 years old at the time, with the movie arriving on his CV after the slick action thrillers (Phone Booth, SWAT, The Recruit) when nobody really knew how to utilise his talents properly, before they realised he's at his best when he's being a little bit weird (The Lobster, The Killing of the Sacred Deer, The Batman).
A decade and change later, Farrell reunites with Brendan Gleeson and writer/director Martin McDonagh for The Banshees Of Inisherin, and we should dispel any fears and/or hopes right now: this is absolutely NOT In Bruges 2.
And that is an incredible thing, because (A) any return to the world of In Bruges would likely only lead to disappointment, and (B) this movie is even better than that one.
Just don't go expecting a laugh riot, because Banshees is just as likely to break your heart as it is to tickle your funny bone, as its DNA has more in common with Brendan Gleeson's other Irish isolated dramedy, Calvary.
Set on the fictional island of Inisherin (the movie was mostly filmed on Inishmore and Achill Island), with the blasts of the Irish Civil War cracking across the sea on the mainland, we're quickly introduced to our two main characters:
Pádraic (Farrell) is happily living an uncomplicated life, housed in a tiny cottage with his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon), keeping a small farm that consists of a few cows and his pet pony.
All is well, until one day his best friend Colm (Gleeson) decides he doesn't want to be his friend anymore. Initially, he doesn't give any reason for the sudden change of heart, much to the bemusement of the locals. It is only when Colm fully spells out the explanation for the sudden closure of their friendship, and the potentially violent ramifications if Pádraic doesn't agree to end things amicably, that the full weight of his seriousness lands on the small island with a heavy thud.
On a basic level, Banshees is tackling the dissolution of a friendship, something very rarely approached in cinema outside of broad comedies (Me, You and Dupree springs to mind). In and of itself, that can be something incredibly traumatic for those involved, and just taking the movie on face value is enough to ballast the rollercoaster of emotions brought forward by the pair of incredible performances by Farrell and Gleeson.
Farrell especially, following an already epic 2022 (The Batman, After Yang, Thirteen Lives), delivers a career-best performance here; a man left adrift by the abandonment of maybe the only person in his life that he's ever truly loved. Gleeson matches him in a much less obvious role, often only revealing the tip of what is clearly a massive iceberg of conflict.
They are ably supported by a killer cast, with Condon smartly playing possibly the only level-headed person on the entire island, while Barry Keoghan goes against-type as an absolutely heartbreaking character that has never adequately, or appropriately, learned how to verbalise his emotions.
But fuelling them all is McDonagh's multi-layered script and light-touch direction. This could have very easily been a stage play, with most of the scenes involving two characters talking within the tight confines of a thatched cottage, but McDonagh allows the staggering natural beauty of Ireland's primal western coast to do a lot of the cinematic heavy lifting.
Meanwhile, shuddering beneath the surface, is an ode to the very idea of creating art. One part love letter, one part pros and cons list, it reveals (admittedly, an exaggerated) cost of having an artistic mind, and the pure fear of not having enough time in this world to be as creative as you always thought you might be.
It is a purely existential fear, but an absolute concern for anyone who has ever thought to themselves they would eventually write that book, that screenplay, the poem... Eventually. One day. The time just isn't right right now. But one day, right? Maybe... Maybe not...
The Banshees of Inisherin arrives in Irish cinemas on Friday, 21 October.