Throughout my life I've grappled many times with the dilema related to the solitary pursuit of my art (in my case, filmmaking) at the expense of a social life and spending "non-productive" hang out time with friends. Particularly in my twenties I found I couldn't relax and enjoy myself in a laid back social setting If I didn't feel that I was putting enough labor that week on a creative project, whether it be writing a script, editing a video or doing something to propel myself forward creatively in some regard. There would be times where I would feel obligated to acquiesce to a friends request to get together even If I my time was already focused on something I was working on.
Most of my friends are fellow artists themselves but there's always one or two old friends that pop up from time to time that dare I say - one feels an obligation to catch up and spend time with - even if they don't feel like it. Most of us carve out the time, say yes to the request for lunch or dinner and sacrifice an afternoon or even a whole day just to keep the friend satisfied and to not hurt their feelings. But what if we suddenly decided to be completely honest with a person that we didn't care to see anymore? What if we decided to be more selfish and less nice to someone we felt wasn't adding to the quality of our life?
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN explores this exact concept and takes the proceedings that spawn from it to an absurdist and near surreal level that makes for one of the most unique filmgoing experiences of the year and a film that lingers around in your head long after you've left it. Colin Farrell plays Pádraic a simple minded Irish farmer that's suddenly left stumped after his longtime friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) starts ignoring his requests to get a pint down at the local pub. After Pádraic's persistent inquisitiveness about getting shunned, Colm reveals to him that he no longer likes Pádraic and doesn't want to waste his time chatting away mindlessly when the time can be better spent writing his music and focusing on his art.
Pádraic can't process or let go of what he's being told and continues to bother Colm about it creating a larger riff between the two that grows increasingly bizarre as the film progresses. What begins as a sitcom like premise evolves into a deep and disturbing meditation on human behavior and artistically speaking, the need for an artist to suffer or pay a price for their art.
Never before has a film explored the strange self satisfaction that a person can have from holding a grudge more interestingly than BANSHEES. And I would even say It is undoubtedly the best film ever made about the stubborn Irish male psyche and the role it plays in the ongoing battle between choosing the high or low road in the relationships with our fellow humans. For Martin McDonough (IN BRUGES, THREE BILLBOARDS) he's made his darkest and more mature film to date. Nothing like the fun romps of McDonoughs other works, BANSHEES crawls slowly under your skin and makes you itch. I am still weighing it as my personal favorite of his against IN BRUGES (2007).
The film does suffer from pacing issues - slowing down when the momentum and tension between the two characters reach a new peak. It would have benefited from a good twenty minutes being chopped out for a leaner and meaner film. Ben Davis, Martin McDonough’s previous Director of Photography gorgeously captures the proceedings and does some of the best work of his career creating an atmosphere of an early 1920's Irish Island that slowly becomes a western like battleground for the two hard-headed men.
A trip to the theater is well worth taking to check out BANSHEES, you'll laugh, squirm and ponder.