Niceness Doesn’t Last – The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

For The Banshees of Inisherin, writer/director Martin McDonagh reunites Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, the stars of his 2008 cult hitman comedy In Bruges. The two films may be very different in terms of story, incident, and tone, but both share an incisive wit and blisteringly funny ear for character dialogue. The lead actors’ previous history together also informs their interpersonal dynamics here. They’re entirely believable as old friends who’ve known each other forever.

Fresh from its theatrical run and a host of Golden Globe nominations, the acclaimed dramedy made a quick turnaround to debut on HBO and HBO Max last week, with physical media releases on DVD and Blu-ray this week. Obviously, the timing is designed to maximize exposure during this critical awards voting season. As pointless as movie awards may be in most respects, the attention they can bring to a small film like this, one lacking in bombastic action or visual effects spectacle, does serve some purpose.

The Banshees of Inishiren (2022) - Kerry Condon & Colin Farrell
Title:The Banshees of Inisherin
Year of Release: 2022
Director: Martin McDonagh
Watched On: HBO Max
Also Available On: Blu-ray
Various VOD rental and purchase platforms

In a tiny island village off the coast of Ireland, a man named Pádraic (Farrell) stops by the house of his best mate, Colm (Gleeson), to pick him up for their nightly pint down at the pub. This is a ritual the two have shared for as long as either can remember. This evening, however, Colm doesn’t answer the door. His sits inside, silent, while his friend eyes him through the window, confounded by what’s happening.

Without warning, Colm has decided to entirely cut off his friendship with Pádraic. They haven’t had a fight. Pádraic hasn’t said or done anything to upset him. The only explanation Colm will offer is, “I just don’t like you no more.” Beyond that, he doesn’t want to speak to him, ever again. The more Pádraic pressures him for answers and tries to win back his friend, the colder toward him Colm becomes, eventually taking drastic action to ensure their separation.

This disruption to their routine leaves Pádraic unsettled. It throws off the rest of the village as well. The island is a small community where everyone can’t help but know each other’s business. They all regard Pádraic as a nice man, “one of life’s good guys.” That’s all he’s ever wanted to be. Until this event, he was content with his meager existence, living with his sister far from the concerns of civilization on the mainland. Although the exact time period is unclear at first, we soon learn that the story is set in the year 1923. From time to time, the sounds of warfare can be heard from across the water, but the Irish Civil War is of little concern to anyone here, and they mostly ignore it. A pint of stout and a good chat with his friend are all Pádraic needs to get through the day. With one of those taken from him, life quickly becomes unbearable.

The Banshees of Inisherin is a very sad story, but hilariously told. McDonagh infuses the tale with a tremendous amount of humor. The characters are all vividly drawn and extremely colorful. The dialogue, even though filled with arcane local slang delivered in thick accents, is enormously sharp and funny.

The performances are key in selling it. This may be a career best for Colin Farrell, an actor too often underused doing bland roles in big-budget productions (Minority Report, S.W.A.T., the Total Recall remake, etc.) when he really shines in smaller character pieces. His Pádraic is a simple man, but not a dim one. He knows what he wants from life, and it cuts him straight to the soul when his best friend declares that everything they’ve shared isn’t enough for him anymore – bluntly, that Pádraic isn’t enough for him anymore. The pain and confusion on his face don’t need words.

Brendan Gleeson is reliable as always, and key supporting turns by Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s sister and Barry Keoghan as the village idiot both have moments that will break your heart, but this is mostly Farrell’s movie, and he’s fantastic in it start to finish.

I hesitate to overpraise The Banshees of Inisherin while it’s still basking in the awards season glow. Getting caught up in the critical hype can hurt a movie as much as help. (McDonagh’s last effort, 2018’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, faced a backlash and has largely disappeared from public consciousness after its brief, unfulfilled status as an Oscar front-runner.) How much staying power the film will have remains to be seen. Even with that in mind, however, Banshees took me on quite an emotional ride. It entertained me greatly, made me feel pain for all the main characters, and ultimately made me look back and reflect seriously on the ways I’ve treated people in my own past. That’s achievement enough, regardless of whether it brings home any golden trophies when the hoopla dies down.

The Banshees of Inishiren (2022) - Colin Farrell

Video Streaming

The Banshees of Inisherin was produced by Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight), a division of Disney. Its premiere on HBO and HBO Max in the United States is undoubtedly a limited engagement. I expect its eventual domestic streaming home to reside on Hulu. In other regions, it’s on Disney+ now.

I watched on HBO Max, which streams the film in 1080p high-definition. The movie looks pretty good overall. The 2.40:1 image probably could be sharper. Colors and contrast are fine. The film is set in a very scenic location and is well photographed, but the video quality of the stream doesn’t offer much to write home about. It may look a slight bit better on Blu-ray (I can’t say), but I think a 4K release with an HDR grade might add a sense of depth that’s mostly lacking now. Unfortunately, none has been announced.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is almost entirely dialogue driven, with the surround channels reserved for ambient effects that rarely draw attention to themselves. In a couple of instances, rifle and cannon fire can be heard from a distance. A house fire provides some brief bass rumble. The musical score by Carter Burwell has decent fidelity, but doesn’t get much of a showcase until the end credits.

One thought on “Niceness Doesn’t Last – The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

  1. Great, can’t wait, will check out for sure. Funny you use the word ‘bland’ to describe his turn in ‘Minority Report’; that was the first Colin Farrell movie I ever saw, and I thought he was terrific in it.


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