“The Banshees of Inisherin”


Metacritic (3/10), Letterboxd (1.5/5), Imdb.com (3/10)

Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy-drama is one of those films that leaves me (and probably many other viewers) scratching my head, making me sincerely wonder what all the fuss is about. In this fable-like Irish folk tale about two longtime friends (Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson) whose relationship suddenly reaches an impasse, they struggle to come to terms of where things go from there in the aftermath of this scenario. There’s just one problem here: the picture’s razor-thin premise with its virtually nonexistent back story doesn’t provide enough basis for why the dissolution of this friendship occurs and then escalates to a tale of inexplicable desperation and truly bewildering retributive self-abuse. Indeed, we seem to know more about the setting of the story – a small island off the western Irish seacoast during the waning days of the new republic’s 1922-23 civil war – than we do about its characters, their relationship and their motivations. To compound matters, the narrative stretches out far too long, taking a seeming eternity to unfold with no particularly satisfying payoff, punctuated by lame attempts at humor that mostly fail to land. To its credit, this offering features fine performances by its two principals, as well as superb portrayals by Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan in supporting roles, all of whom have garnered Golden Globe Award nominations in the acting categories. There’s also much to be said for its gorgeous cinematography and atmospheric Carter Burwell original score. However, it’s truly mind-boggling to understand how this film has earned eight total Globe nods and four National Board of Review awards, among numerous other inflated and questionable accolades. This tediously dull, slow-paced effort falls woefully short of the fine work the filmmaker achieved in previous films like “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017) and “In Bruges” (2008) (not to mention its lack of the snappy on-screen chemistry that Farrell and Gleeson achieved in that off-beat comedy), accomplishments that make this release come across as a great disappointment by comparison. In fact, at the risk of overstatement, “Banshees” could have been edited down to a short, and it still likely would have been a letdown. Catch this one at your peril; at the very least, it’s now available for online streaming, so you shouldn’t have to venture out if you really want to watch it.