Even though, as usual, this year’s Oscar nominations reflect some bullshit, there are always a few films genuinely worthy of recognition. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Everything Everywhere All at Once to go home with as many awards as it can…though I won’t be too upset if this week’s film picks up some wins.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Following years of friendship, a man living on a small Irish island finds his world rocked when his best friend abruptly decides to end their relationship.
Pádraic is a happy, laid-back fellow content to lead a rather routine existence on a small island off the coast of Ireland. Though it’s 1923 and we’ve really only scratched the surface on all of the horrors unfolding in 20th century Ireland, life on the island seems so removed, wrapped up in its own everyday affairs.
While not renowned for his smarts (and frequently responding to questions with a clueless “Huh?”), Pádraic considers his reputation for being a nice guy more important. This makes it all the more shocking when, out of the blue, his best friend Colm upends their friendship by deciding it’s no longer worth his time. Perhaps equally upsetting, he disrupts their long-observed tradition of heading to the pub for a 2:00 drink.
For quite a while, Pádraic refuses to believe Colm is entirely serious, or that this matter can’t be resolved. After all, the two have always gotten along well despite their different personalities, and there’s no identifiable disagreement that has come between them. Pádraic’s sister Siobhán assures her brother the two bffs will patch things up, even temporarily overlooking Pádraic’s insistence on allowing their donkey, Jenny, inside the house for a cuddle.
As Inisherin is a tiny island, everyone knows everything going on–and has an opinion on it. The bartender at the local pub sympathizes, while scary old woman in a cloak Mrs. McCormick (my favorite character, honestly) offers only vaguely menacing predictions. With Colm no longer his friend, Pádraic has only police officer’s son Dominic to pal around with, despite him being somewhat of a creep.
Pádraic even goes so far as to encourage the local priest to intervene, leading to a memorable scene in which he refuses to absolve Colm following confession. From this point on, things really escalate as Colm puts down a hard boundary: any time Pádraic talks to him, Colm will cut off one of his own fingers and send it to him. Counterintuitively, this seems to be the only way for Colm to ensure he has the time to create a legacy: the fiddle music he will compose.
As the two men stubbornly draw their battle lines, their feud ripples across the island in unexpected ways, causing irreversible changes…and even death.
4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
For such a sad story that in many ways stands in for the Irish Civil War, this is a surprisingly funny film–admittedly very darkly funny. There’s some excellent dialogue here, which more often than not reveals the absurdity of small-town life in Inisherin. I genuinely laughed at some of Pádraic’s interactions with Mrs. McCormick, and a scene where he convinces a student of Colm’s that a bread van has left his father in critical condition that is hilarious…if mean-spirited.
Both of our protagonists are vividly drawn, and despite their reputations undergo a tragic sort of reversal. Pádraic’s existence as a nice person who wants to quietly maintain the status quo is upended as he becomes cruelly calculating. Meanwhile, Colm’s standing as one of the island’s cleverest is questionable as he self-sabotages his plan for posthumous renown through song composition what with the finger severing. In exchanges with Siobhán, Colm also proves himself not to be as insightful or well-read as others on the island may believe.
It does hit close to home to imagine being confronted with the horrible reality that, all along, those closest to you can’t stand you. As much as I feel for Colin Farrell’s Pádraic with his big, sad eyebrows, Colm’s preference for something truthful and long-lasting over the status quo rings true as well. It does seem tragic that the answers lie somewhere in the middle, and there are some moments of tension when it seems things could be resolved. Yet both men ultimately take an extreme stance from which they will not budge.
As much as I enjoyed this one, though, I could have happily watched a movie exclusively focused on Jenny the donkey.