The Banshees of Inisherin – 5 stars

“Well, that was quite a thing” – my wife, at the end of the movie. Spoiler. Animals die.

About my wife. When that occurs, consider all your slack given.

It is indeed, however, quite a film, one that works as a fable, a meditation, and a beautiful, conflicted, messy tale of the shackles, joys and miseries of isolation, friendship and love.

I have a deep frustration with people who have the kind of depression that blots out the sun and cripples those who love them so much that they become collateral damage. The narcissism. The “I don’t take drugs because they change the essence of meeeeeeeeeeee!” The voracious appetite for the steadfastness of the simpletons who take the kicks and keep coming back for more. Blech. I’m not always proud of it but it is genuine and fixed in my marrow.

Here, a depressed, artistic man in despair (Brendan Gleeson) cuts off his simple, dull pal (Colin Farrell) even though they are lifelong friends on a barren Irish Island. The disassociation is brutal and final and nothing less than an assault from the intellectually superior and more sophisticated of the union. Every instinct I had was to decry Gleeson and champion Farrell, even as I grudgingly respected Gleeson’s stand, cruel and self-abasing as it was. I’m more gravitated to the simple and the banal, the loyal, Particularly when the artist’s excesses, in all their Van Gogh glory, start taking hostages. Taken at face value, it was no contest.

But as the picture progressed, my sympathies for both men equalized. Somewhat. Against all of my internal instincts. And in the struggle, the picture opens up and draws you into a much deeper analysis.

Fecking hell.

Interspersed in this tug-of-war is Martin McDonagh’s (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Three Billboards) alternatively hilarious and mournful dialogue, deeply rooted in the Irish experience, with its strange and compelling fixation on conflict, routine, simplicity, and the Church.

A gem I wanted to hate.

On HBOMax.

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