In Martin McDonagh’s latest film, The Banshees of Inisherin, Collin Ferrell plays Pádraic, a cow farmer who lives with his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) on Inisherin, a fictional small island off the coast of Ireland. Pádraic is a nice man. A man who goes about his days like clockwork. He works with his cows, delivers milk to the local grocer, and goes and meets his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) at the local pub for several drinks. Pádraic is well-liked amongst the people of the small island and has an easy-going personality that finds him talking a lot without saying a lot, which doesn’t seem to bother anyone.
That is until one afternoon when Colm decides he doesn’t want to be friends with Pádraic anymore. Colm calmly tells Pádraic “I just don’t like you no more.” This comes as news to Pádraic, as he thought everything in life was going fine. Colm has other thoughts and has come to the conclusion that being friends with Pádraic isn’t helping him succeed in life and that he wants to instead focus on writing a piece of music rather than be friends with Pádriac in order to secure his legacy and importance in life. Pádraic doesn’t understand why Colm is doing what he is doing and refuses to go down easy, which only makes things more complicated.
It might sound simple on its surface, but McDonagh’s film is as good as movies get in 2022. This is a layered and complex dark comedy about friendship, pride, guilt, and leaving your mark on the world. Pádraic doesn’t expect much out of life and doesn’t know the possibilities of life. Inisherin is his life and his home and if he were to live the rest of his life there without ever exploring anything beyond it, he probably wouldn’t mind. Colm, who is nearly twenty years older than Pádraic, feels he has wasted his time hanging out with Pádraic and doing nothing, which is why he ultimately had to end the friendship. Colm wants to leave a legacy that will live beyond the island of Inisherin, something that has never crossed Pádraic’s mind and something he simply does not understand. McDonagh’s sharp, tight script unfolds the melancholic tale with humor and sadness, and ultimately tragedy.
2022 is the year of Colin Ferrell. Following excellent turns in Kogonada’s After Yang, Ron Howard’s Thirteen Lives, and as The Penguin in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, Ferrell tops off the year with the best performance of his career as Pádraic. Farrell’s portrayal is a showcase of empathy and sweetness for the simple Pádraic and shows what can happen when a nice man is pushed to limits. Despite Pádraic’s easy-going lifestyle on Inisherin, Farrell is never condescending to Pádraic as a character and never makes him come off as stupid. It’s a masterful performance that highlights everything that makes Ferrell one of the best actors working today.
On the other side of this battle is Gleeson as Colm, who is just as great and a perfect counter to Ferrell. Despite an intense stare and a towering presence, as well as causing Pádraic severe distress, you never see Colm as a bad or scary guy. He is a man of conviction, one who has decided what he thinks will better his life and his future. Colm is a quiet, thoughtful man who only moves with purpose and there is nobody in Hollywood who conveys that better than Gleeson.
There isn’t a bad guy in The Banshees of Inisherin. You don’t think Colm is a bad guy for ending his friendship with Pádraic and you never get mad at Pádraic in his endless pursuit to get answers from Colm and his refusal to lose a friend, despite the consequences that come with it. And that’s the brilliance of McDonagh’s screenplay and the performances from Farrell and Gleeson. There’s a lot to unpack with The Banshees of Inisherin about the meaning of friendship and what you want out of life and McDonagh doesn’t answer any of them, allowing us to stew on these ideas and think about the motives and the actions of the characters.
The Banshees of Inisherin is one of the finest movies of 2022 and features McDonagh, Ferrell, and Gleeson delivering career-best work.
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