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Review: The Banshees of Inisherin

Director Martin McDonagh already proved his credentials as a bonafide auteur with In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Even by those high standards, however, The Banshees of Inisherin is his most accomplished, compelling, and emotionally resonant work to date.

The conflict is deceptively simple—simultaneously as intimate as a quiet afternoon chat at the local pub and as epic as the echo of cannon fire rolling across the countryside. As the Irish Civil War ravages the mainland, a significantly colder war is brewing on a tiny island just off the coast: a petty feud between two former friends that gradually tears the quaint community apart. Aging fiddler Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson, effortlessly personifying gruff charisma) has grown weary of the company of his ignorant, doltish drinking buddy, Pádraic (Colin Farrell, delivering yet another delightfully quirky performance). Fearing that their dull, banal conversations are depleting what precious little time he has left on Earth, Colm abruptly ends their relationship, threatening to sever one of his own fingers for every word that Pádraic speaks to him moving forward. Unfortunately, the relentlessly optimistic cattle farmer—convinced that he’ll be able to patch things up with a bit of persistence and good cheer—refuses to take the hint, much to his eminently practical sister Siobhán’s (Kerry Condon, who absolutely steals the show) chagrin.

McDonagh’s script is razor sharp, featuring dialogue that manages to be both witty and naturalistic in equal measure—with a clear distinction between characters that aren’t intelligent (Pádraic), characters that think they’re intelligent (Colm), and characters that actually are intelligent (Siobhán). While the abundance of verbal sparring occasionally betrays the writer's theatrical background, the narrative structure is fundamentally cinematic, taking full advantage of the small-town (or village, as it were) charm of the setting—rain-slick hills, roiling seas, and overcast skies have rarely looked so beautiful. Patient and deliberate without ever becoming boring or uneventful—a quintessential example of the poetry of the mundane—The Banshees of Inisherin is my favorite film of the year so far.

And I don’t foresee it being dethroned any time soon.

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