Banshees of Inisherin an Ode to Loneliness

Playwright Martin McDonagh writes with a knife to a rock, etching in truths that are hard for his characters to swallow.

“I just don’t like you no more,” Colm Doherty tells his long-time friend and drinking buddy, Pádraic Súilleabháin.

It is the stuff of absurd finality that one either laughs off as “only the Irish” or cowers in wretched self-consciousness. The result is both touching and sorrowful.

Banshees of Inisherin is this year’s The Lighthouse (2019), except the kerosene concoctions are replaced with pints of stout, and the animals are treated like companions. 

“I’m not putting my donkey outside when I’m sad,” says Pádraic. 

You see, beneath McDonagh’s blaring prose of manliness is a soft cry of loneliness, and God-fearing Irishmen of the 1920s don’t talk about their feelings, especially when they’re stuck on an island.

McDonagh’s duo is cast to perfection: Brendan Gleeson manifests Colm with a hardened face, weathered by the coastline and the hundreds of “dull” conversations he’s had to endure with Pádraic, a character made for the dough-eyed baby face of Colin Farrell.

The actors dwell in their character’s mire within tiny stone homes while Carter Burwell’s pensive score refuses to resolve. Like Robert Eggers’s The Lighthouse, there are plenty of shots of the ocean waters and their promises of a brighter future. But, these men choose to wallow in loneliness as either a virtue or a curse.

Colm’s abrupt announcement to end his friendship with Pád is like Melville’s “Bartleby, The Scrivener,” in which a failure of connection exhausts itself to conclusiveness: “I would prefer not to.”

“Let’s just call it quits,” says Colm.

The miracle in Martin McDonagh’s written, directed, and produced film is found in its sporadically dark humor, echoing the shock and awkwardness of Fargo (1996).

They say love is a choice. So is loneliness.

It’s kind of funny.

****1/2 out of *****

16 thoughts on “Banshees of Inisherin an Ode to Loneliness

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  1. It looks very ‘woke’ by the trailer. Like a youngen trying to get an older to wake up to his senses about being lonely and offstandish. And dishes on Mozart and history. The olden says call it the quits and the youngen says ‘threatening’ call it the starts. This is scary stuff, unless I’m otherwise mistaken.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OB, you’re the reason I do this: talking movies. And, you are mistaken. If you see the movie (you gotta do that first), the reference on Mozart is dish a on the character’s ignorance and lack of education, so it WAS funny. Regarding your interpretation on the “woke” take, I didn’t see it, read it, or observe that whatsoever. Think of the “calling it quits” as a breakup in a relationship. Everyone needs to experience both sides of a breakup. It can happen in a friendship – forewarned or as a complete surprise. The youngen, in this case, just grew up a bit. (Or, did he?)


      1. I suppose I have to see it one day, and if Movies become easier to see before the Pandemic, which they haven’t been. I saw the ‘woke’ take throughout the whole narrative of the trailer, but I hope to be surprised by the outcome if one day I get to see it. The old guy is a fool and the younger is so up righteous and courageous and don’t they have more to do with their times in that epoch. We’ll see.


        1. I’ll check out your post from yesterday. (I was grateful my wife let me slip out two nights ago to watch a movie and write a quick review on it.) I don’t know: I read more a study of loneliness, relationship expiration, and stubbornness. Honestly, the age roles could have been reversed, and the Irish glib and vulnerability would have been exposed just as much. These are just two men on an island who like to drink and “row.”

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Nice you got permission to leave to watch a movie lol That reminds me of that skit by Bill Burr about racial stereotypes and the guy whose wearing ‘Sweatpants’ at home

            Have you seen that role been reversed recently? When have you seen an older person like Obi Wan Kenobi type character revered in cinema or give old-ageing advice. It doesn’t happen. It’s the opposite now.


            1. I see where you’re coming from now, and I agree that the “teacher” has gradually dissipated to “learner facilitator,” and the respect, authority, and wisdom has been under appreciated by some parents. Not all parents! But, yes, the helicopter has certainly entered the schoolhouse more this last decade than the decade previous. Regarding “Banshees,” this philosophy and perspective is not pursued, in my opinion. In fact, it is the opposite: Pad just talks “the sh*t,” while Colm is seeking substance, music, and self-fulfillment before dying. If anything, it has been Pad who is taking his older and wiser friend for granted…

              Liked by 1 person

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