At The Movies: In The Banshees Of Inisherin, a quarrel escalates into a minor war

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The Banshees Of Inisherin (M18)

114 minutes, opens on Thursday

4 stars

The story: In 1923, as the Irish Civil War rages, a smaller conflict breaks out between two men. Friends Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Padraic (Colin Farrell) have spent their lives on a speck of rock off the west coast, meeting at the island’s lone pub every day to chat about the same topics. Colm suddenly announces that he wants to be left alone. A distraught Padraic refuses to accept the decision, leading to actions that will shake up the community.

In a village steeped in Catholicism, one man draws a line in the sand and another chooses to ignore it. The result is a charming drama-comedy about those who prefer a calm, predictable sadness over unstable joy.

Is Colm, in asking to be left alone, being unreasonable? Does Padriac’s reaction stem from selfishness, or concern for the older man? Is Padraic right to feel betrayed after having invested so much in a friendship? Can a village be too small to tolerate an eccentric?

Through Colm and Padraic, Oscar-winning British-Irish writer-director Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017) has found two compelling characters to animate his favourite themes.

In his comedies In Bruges (2008), also starring Gleeson and Farrell, and Seven Psychopaths (2012), characters touched by tragedy develop bizarre coping mechanisms, which by the end of the films, do not appear so bizarre after all. Being unhinged is perhaps the truest form of freedom.

The sensitive, thoughtful Colm sees Irish rural miserabilism for what it is. He is a tragic figure, a man born decades too soon and in the wrong place. Lording over Inisherin are petty officials whose aim is to beat everyone down to their level of self-loathing. Feeling especially oppressed are Dominic (Barry Keoghan), an outcast, and Pa...

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