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KPCW sends its most discerning moviegoers to the movies each week to let you know which films are worth going to and which are a pass. The Friday Film Review airs after the Noon News at 12:30 p.m. and during The Local View. KPCW Friday Film Reviewers are: Barb Bretz, Rick Brough, Mark Harrington and Linda Jager.

Friday Film Review | "The Banshees of Inisherin"

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Searchlight Pictures
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The Banshees of Inisherin

In 2008, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson played hitmen in the Sundance Premiere film, “In Bruges.” Now they’re back with the same writer-director, Martin McDonagh, in a strange tale from Ireland, "The Banshees of Inisherin."

Franz Kafka famously wrote a story about a man who woke up one day and found he was a bug.

What’s the Irish version? Maybe it’s the story of Pádraic, played by Colin Farrell, who gets up one day and finds his drinking buddy doesn’t want to be his drinking buddy anymore.

The setting is Inisherin, a tight little island off the Irish mainland, in the early 1920s. And mind you, Pádraic hasn’t done or said anything wrong. It’s just that old friend Colm, portrayed by Brendan Gleeson, suddenly decided he wants to spend his remaining time, however long that is, absorbed in his music. Pádraic is cast off because he’s—dull? His horizons are limited?

Or it’s because he’s “nice.” Pádraic is content with life among his pub mates and neighbors; avoiding the old crone in the village who seems to portend doom, and living with his more-literate sister, Siobhan, in a little house, which his beloved pony, Jenny, invades like an outside dog trying to be an inside dog.

The movie is a rich atmospheric depiction of another time and place. It confirms that its stars are some of the best actors around. Colin Farrell’s humdrum “nice” character is hurt, baffled, and increasingly frustrated that Colm will fraternize with everybody else—even the nasty local cop—but has banished him!

Brendan Gleeson’s "Colm" is a gruff enigma. He’s more than a little depressed. He can occasionally be kind. But to fend off Pádraic, he issues a terrible, masochistic ultimatum.

The tale you were expecting, of whimsy and melancholy, turns Black Irish, featuring some drastic deeds that can’t be undone or forgiven.

What’s happening? Maybe writer-director Martin McDonagh means the story to echo the Irish Civil War of the time, blazing away on the mainland. Nobody in the story explains what that conflict is about and maybe they can’t.

Was McDonagh’s story destined to head in this dark heavy direction or did he drag it there?

I’m still not sure. But for that doubt, I’d say “The Banshees of Inisherin” is one of the best pictures of the year so I’m buying four rounds out of five for the house.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.