The Banshees of Inisherin is quiet, steadily paced and slightly repetitive, but it’s always compelling, and it eventually grows hauntingly sad. McDonagh doesn’t stint on daft jokes and jovial banter, but his film gets bleaker, stranger and more poetic as it goes on, until it feels as if the men’s pointless falling out has broken something important, and that things can only get worse for them, the island, and the world. The hints of mysticism and the slow, insistent rhythms turn these two stubborn eejits into mythical figures: timeless embodiments of the masculine, self-destructive refusal to be reasonable.
Farrell, who won the best actor prize at September’s Venice Film Festival, has a pained, confused naivety that’s reminiscent of Stan Laurel, so The Banshees of Inisherin could be viewed as a pitch black homage to Laurel and Hardy. But the refreshing part about it is how different it is from most other films, including McDonagh’s own. It has the ring of a tall tale that has been told in pub after pub, gathering weird new details every time, until it has become a part of Irish folklore. It’s a story that you’ll want to hear – and tell – again and again.
The Banshees of Inisherin is released in the US, UK and Ireland on 21 October.
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