Jeridoo Universe reviews one of the top films coming out of the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) this week of September 12, 2022: The Banshees of Inisherin by Irish playwright/ scriptwriter/ director, Martin McDonagh.
In this "Cliff Notes" of films, so you do not have to, we summarize review notes of over thirty established film critics into a concise, consolidated briefing so you can see what makes this film special and worthy of watching.
Having premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival on September 5 and continuing its festival journey at TIFF, this film is a close-up examination of small-town dynamics and the bittersweet but inevitable end to a long friendship. As a rural character farce, the movie begins with a lighthearted humorous touch. However, as it progresses, it becomes darker and more macabre, with haunting echoes of contemporary Irish history lingering off-screen and clouds of Samuel Beckett-like gloom hanging overhead.
As he approaches the end of his life, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) unilaterally and coldly declares that he no longer wants to be friends with his best friend and drinking partner, Pádraic (Colin Farrell). Instead, he wants to create his legacy through a new piece of music that will be performed by others long after he has passed away.
But as a result of Pádraic's persistence in keeping their friendship alive, Colm is forced to issue a startling ultimatum to expose the intensity of his decision: every time Pádraic speaks to him he will cut off one of his own fiddle-playing fingers with a pair of shears. Of course, Pádraic thinks he is joking and gives it one last attempt using tough love, which he believes may have finally put a stop to their conflict. Then, one night, a tiny, bloodied object strikes Pádraic's front door. His journey begin s with him being the nicest guy in town and ends with a darker turn. As events escalate, they learn that the end of a relationship can create a complete disruption in everyone’s perception of life in this world.
This film is set in 1923 during the Irish Civil War between the Irish Free State and the Anti-Treaty IRA, on the fictional scantily populated island of Inisherin off the west coast of Ireland (the real shot locations were Inishmore and Achill Island including Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran islands). As the main shot locations, we encounter the beach, rolling green hills, a lake, pastoral cottage-lined village atop the cliffs and a single local pub (where drinking and chatting are the main pastimes of this island). The framing and lighting of the Irish landscape follow the same emotional journey as the playful warmth, which gradually descends into fruitless pessimism.
The Main Protagonists
The lead Actors worked together in a former film with McDonagh, “In Bruges.” Lifelong friends whose families were torn apart due to the Irish Civil War, Colin Farrell as the happy-go-lucky, childish, kind but not so bright Pádraic Súilleabháin, and Brandon Gleeson as Colm Doherty, the older and more intelligent of the two, a poetic type, a musician and his best friend (or at least drinking companion for life). Their Odd Couple relationship is both funny and complicated.
The most realistic work by Farrell shows emotions like wide-eyed optimism, self-assurance, fear, and bothersome, naively eager attempts to win his friend's love and favor. Pádraic’s feelings are depicted as perplexity, rage, grief, and desperate attempts. From his face to his posture to the way he walks and talks, provide a real anchor of humanity to the film. This is balanced with by the less expressive Colm, who holds his secrets within.
We observe the two men attempting to communicate with one another but failing to truly "hear" one another, leading to troubling outcomes.
While there are no shrieking spirits in this film as the film title would allude, this town’s cast of characters include
Themes of the Film
The depths of friendship, the truths about aging and loneliness, what binds us together and what divides us; the things that enhance our lives and the things that destroy them are all themes of focus in this film. The film compels us to ask these questions: Although we cannot make people like us or feel a connection with us, can we attempt to be genuine so they can find something to join? Why Is a memory of having been a good person more valuable than a legacy of artistic creation? Does a man's grandeur diminish if he loses his decency? If a man loses his decency, does the greatness of his achievement mean anything?
The Writer / Director
Irish Playwright Martin McDonagh, known for his gift for dialogue, writes with comedic precision and a distinct Irish voice, drawing humor from the mundane. He was known for his theater plays (“The Beauty Queen of Leenane,” “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” et. al.) and his third film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” as well as cult classics, “In Bruges” and “Seven Psychopaths.” This is his fourth feature film with eloquent and dark, witty directorial work.
The film was produced by McDonagh, Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin (Blueprint Pictures) for Searchlight Pictures and Film4.
This film is beautifully shot by Ben Davis, a regular collaborator with McDonagh, with exceptional cinematography, sweeping, breathtaking, textured and well-lit. His use of light spilling into interior space is truly mesmerizing.
Carter Burwell provides fanciful xylophone and harp-centric score adding to the atmosphere of the film.
Summary of The Film Critic Reviews
Critics have described this film as excellent story telling with a “profound message on the meaning of life.” With deep empathy for both sides in a breakup, it is “accessible,” “relatable,” “admirable,” “loving” and “poignant.” At the same time, the actors and director masterfully create a film of existential despair that is “dangerous,” “acerbic,” “darkly amusing” and “heartbreaking.” One critic summed it up as an “all-around enchanting ode to the Irish people.” The director once again demonstrates his dramatist ability in turning a simple incident into a substantial work of art. He also maintains audience engagement at an elevated level with a combination of unexpected turns and pointedly serious moments.
One of our contributors to the Jeridoo Universe blog, James Kellogg is a senior concept artist, occasional independent film actor and international producer and developer of films, series and interactive/metaverse projects. You can find him at imdb.me/jameskellogg.
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