Beyond Fest movie review: ‘Banshees of Inisherin’ finds poignancy in dark comedy

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Colm (Brendan Gleeson, L) breaks the news to Padraic (Colin Farrell) that their friendship is over. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 29 (UPI) — The Banshees of Inisherin, in theaters Oct. 21, is a poignant story about the end of adult friendships. As awkward as it can be to re-evaluate friendships in adulthood, writer/director Martin McDonagh mines the subject for bitingly dark comedy.

One day, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) informs Padraic (Colin Farrell) that he no longer wants to be friends. Given that they both live on the small Irish island of Inisherin in 1923, it’s a bit challenging to avoid each other.

Padraic goes through the stages of grief, first hoping as a form of denial that it’s just a joke. But, Colm is quite serious.

Colm’s reasons are as simple. He no longer likes Padraic and wants to spend his time on other pursuits. New interests do compromise existing friendships, although cutting a person off completely is an extreme move.

At first, Colm encourages Padraic to use this as an opportunity to find new interests and friendships of his own. Of course, you can’t force someone to grow up.

You can still see the McDonagh of In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri finding the absurdity in the mundane. The intensity of the dialogue brings out more absurdity, such as when Colm gives examples of conversations with Padraic he considers a waste of time.

The situation escalates when Padraic involves other islanders in trying to win Colm back. Colm takes drastic measures to threaten Padraic to stay away. Animal peril may be hard to watch, and McDonagh lingers on some of the graphic human gore committed in the name of making a point.

Padraic’s sister, Sihoban (Kerry Condon), tries to resolve the conflict as many women bear the brunt of male feuds. Padraic ends up driving more loved ones away over his obsession with Colm.

The Banshees of Inisherin can be a Rorshach test for viewers if they relate more to Colm or Padaraic and take either or neither’s side. Or, viewers can just enjoy the unfolding train wreck of two grown men spiraling out of control.

The Banshees of Inisherin opens Oct. 21 in theaters.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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