November 16, 2022 – Two old friends living on the small, fictional Irish island of Inisherin gradually become enemies in this black comedy. Their falling out leads to a series of very unlikely events culminating in death and destruction.
At least one of the characters in this story, perhaps more, needed psychiatric care, but perhaps such service was not readily available in this place in 1923, the year this story is set, especially since a civil war is raging at this time.
The main character at the heart of this farcical story is a simple farmer, Pádraic Súilleabháin (played by Colin Farrell of “The Batman”) who lives with his sister, the bookish Siobhan Súilleabháin (Kerry Condon of “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”). Aside from his sister, Pádraic seems to have only one friend, a folk musician and composer, Colm Doherty (played by Brendan Gleeson of “Calvary”) who often plays with fellow musicians at the local pub.
The two men go to the pub to drink and talk every day at 2 p.m. But one day, Colm abruptly tells Pádraic that he wants to be left alone. He wants only silence from Pádraic from now on. He later explains that Pádraic is dull, and listening to his conversations is a waste of time. Time has become important to Colm, who wants to spend his remaining years composing music. He hopes his music will live on after he dies.
Pádraic does not understand this and refuses to stop trying to engage in conversation with his old friend, but Colm is adamant. He finally issues an ultimatum to Pádraic at the pub. He says that every time Pádraic talks to him from now on, Colm will start cutting off his own fingers.
Colm's simplistic ultimatum is obviously a self-destructive course of action, since Pádraic lives on the same island with him and they both go to the same pub and church. Unless one of them leaves the island, or stops going to the pub, fingers are going to be cut off. Others on the island, including Pádraic's sister Siobhan can see where this is going and try to stop it from happening, but both Pádraic and Colm continue on their insane collision course.
The loss of his friend destabilizes Pádraic's life and he becomes increasingly bitter towards Colm as their conflict escalates. Colm is fine without Pádraic. He has other friends. Pádraic simply will not leave Colm alone, but Colm does speak to Pádraic from time to time, which, of course leads to Pádraic talking back to him.
Two other characters in the story are a local policeman, Peadar Kearney (Gary Lydon of “Brooklyn”) and his son Dominic (Barry Keoghan of “Dunkirk”). Peadar is both an abusive father and an ineffective policeman. Dominic, who is a bit slow, is romantically attracted to Siobhan, but she is not interested in him. Things end badly for them, as well as for Pádraic and Colm.
While the details of this story are farcical, I suspect anyone who has been ghosted (abandoned) or who has ghosted someone can relate to the characters Pádraic and Colm. About the only sane character caught up in this mess is Siobhan, who breaks the cycle and deals with it in a way that works, for the most part, while Pádraic, Colm and the rest just swirl on down the drain.
I thought I would be depressed by this movie, but it turns out to be far enough removed from reality that it seemed as whimsical as it was tragic. The acting is superb by the whole cast. The cinematography by Ben Davis beautifully captures the character of the Irish locations. Writer and director Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) successfully navigates a fine line between farce and pathos. This is a good movie. It is unique, and obviously not for all tastes. It rates a B.
Note: The fiddle tune, “The Banshees of Inisherin,” composed and played in the film by Colm Doherty, is actually composed by and played by the same actor who plays Colm in the movie, Brendan Gleeson. In addition to being a fiddle player, Gleeson also studied at the Berklee College of Music.
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