If You Love ‘In Bruges’ Then Buckle Up For ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’

Let’s start with the easy part. Did you like In Bruges? You know, the 2008 movie starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two dopes working as hitmen who have to hide out in the city of Bruges, directed by Martin McDonagh? Then, yes, you will very much like The Banshees of Inisherin (which just premiered at the Venice Film Festival and will also play at the Toronto International Film Festival), the 2022 movie starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as two dopes living on a small island off the coast of Ireland, directed by Martin McDonagh. I would put myself in the category of “someone who really likes In Bruges,” so, if you feel the same, let me tell you that this reunion of McDonagh, Farrell, and Gleeson not only met my high expectations, it exceeded them. As I type this I saw this movie over a week ago and I can’t stop thinking about it.

The Banshees of Inisherin will be an easier movie to write about once people have seen it. It would be a mistake to call it “subtle” in what it is attempting to do, but also to get into great detail about specific moments in the movie would be a disservice to a future viewer of a movie that they don’t have access to yet. What I will say is, in The Banshees of Inisherin, McDonagh has distilled the last 100 years of Irish history into two dolts who get into a heated feud for literally no reason.

Pádraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson) are drinking buddies who live on a quaint, sleepy island off the coast of mainland Ireland. Set in 1923, the Irish Civil War is in its last throes, a conflict about the terms of Irish independence from Britain that (if my Irish history is correct) formed sides that still remain as heated political parties today. The battles can be seen from the island, but don’t seem to affect life much there one way or another. At least, it certainly doesn’t get in the way of a good pint.

One afternoon Pádraic is headed to the local pup and, as he usually does, stops by Colm’s house on the way, because, presumably, this is Pádraic’s daily routine. But this time Colm doesn’t answer him, even though he’s clearly right there. When Colm finally does show up at the bar, he tells Colm that he has decided he doesn’t want to be friends anymore and that’s that and all communication needs to end. At first Pádraic thinks this is a joke, and Colm’s reasoning in vague – giving explanations that vary from, “Pádraic is dull,” to, “devoting the rest of his life to making music.”

Pádraic’s frequent attempts to diffuse the situation – at first he assumes he said something insulting after a few too many pints – leads to aggression on Colm’s part. Namely, every time Pádraic tries to talk to Colm, Colm will cut off one of his own fingers. What starts as a simple, unprompted shunning eventually escalates into something much more twisted and violent. As much as Colm warns Pádraic to leave him alone, Pádraic simply won’t let it go.

Pádraic lives with his sister, Siobhán (Kerry Condon), who believes Colm is obviously overreacting, but also truly believes both men are idiots and isn’t at all happy that these two nitwits who are feuding for literally no reason is affecting her life in any way. She also has to fend off Dominic (Barry Keoghan), a nice enough lad, but is both too young and too naive. (And is often beaten and abused by his alcoholic father, who also happens to be the town policeman.)

Like In Bruges, The Banshees of Inisherin is a dark movie that is often downright hilarious. And The Banshees of Inisherin somehow manages to be darker than In Bruges, a movie in which (spoiler for In Bruges) both main characters (probably) die. And as I alluded to earlier, this isn’t simply a movie about two morons. McDonagh shows us what happens when one person, group, government, entity shuts down all communication with another. It leads to confusion and angst, then eventually aggression and retaliation. It’s quite remarkable that a movie that plays so clearly as a giant metaphor also works so well as its own story. And that has a lot to do with Farrell and Gleeson settling back into their comedy routine they perfected 14 years ago in In Bruges. (Though, this time around there are a lot less Time Bandits references.)

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