“The Banshees of Inisherin” Digital Review: A Cinematic Exploration of Friendship and Ireland
Martin McDonagh’s films have an exciting way of exploring the relationships we share with others. Especially friendships. And that couldn’t be more true for his latest film, “The Banshees of Inisherin.” The film centers on Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, whose chemistry in McDonagh’s “In Bruges” was one of the shining points of the dark buddy comedy, as they face a crisis when one of them decides he really doesn’t want to be friends anymore.
Considered one of the best of 2023 and an Oscar frontrunner, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is now available for you to own on all home media platforms. But before it hits store shelves, you can get an early look at it on Digital. For the purposes of this review, we will be taking a look at what the bonus features have to offer.
The review will be brief, as I haven’t seen the film until now, and this is meant to be a review of the bonus features. But for what it is worth, the film is as much an examination of life as it is an examination of the friendships we hold dear. Death is inevitable, and as such, we must reconcile with the fact that our time will come sooner or later. It’s a somber thought that can be hard for some to overcome. And yet, despite the degree of cynicism in tone, we can celebrate it meaningfully. And while McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” expresses the thought that life is best spent being kind to others, the characters do the exact opposite.
That contrast serves as a dichotomic purpose in the narrative for folk musician Colm Doherty (Gleeson) abruptly begins ignoring his long-time friend and drinking buddy Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell). So naturally, Doherty worries about the legacy he leaves behind and if he will be remembered for all the good he’s done. But, OF course, there’s no natural way to measure that, as Súilleabháin reminds him. And his love for his friend is so profound that it annoys Doherty. So much so that he gives his former friend an ultimatum: every time Pádraic bothers or tries to talk with him, Colm will cut off one of his left fingers with a pair of sheep shears.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” may be a bit heavy and dark. Still, it is also funny and has an oddly humorous way of speaking the truth about the matter. And to see the fragility of that friendship through the lens of violence gets to the heart of living a life we can be happy with once we leave the mortal plane.
As for the bonus features, there’s not that much to offer. Of course, “The Banshees of Inisherin” shouldn’t require something so in-depth as how it was made, as the film itself is far more compelling. Still, if you are interested in some behind-the-scenes action, know that there are two bonus features to look forward to.
The first is “Shooting with Animals for ‘The Banshees of Inisherin.’” In it, you will discover the nature of the relationship between Súilleabháin and his donkey friend, Jenny. Animal trainer Megan Hines talked a little bit about how the production started out as overwhelming for Jenny. But once she settled in, she began to react appropriately to the hand and verbal cues. “She’s the best donkey for the job,” McDonagh praised. “She nailed it.”
Hines joked that she even upstaged the actors. McDonagh added that Jenny was also a bit of a diva on set.
But the “Creating ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’” featurette is where you want to look at how McDonagh created the highly acclaimed film. Gleeson’s description of the film is probably the aptest as he calls it a “tale of destruction.” The fact that McDonagh wrote it had a hand in Gleeson’s decision to join the film.
“It’s hard to find scripts that are moving and make people think about how they think, and he always seems to do that,” said Kerry Condon, who plays Siobhán Súilleabháin. “Isn’t that the purpose of art? You want art to make people think deeper.”
McDonagh tells us about how he wanted to write about two friends and a fallout for quite some time and how it all fell into place three years ago once he started. He mentions that it is probably one of the quickest scripts he has ever written.
The featurette then focuses on his working relationship between McDonagh, Farrell, and Connelly. The three haven’t worked together on a film since “In Bruges,” and it is something McDonagh has wanted to do for a long time. “There was something about us working together on ‘In Bruges” that we didn’t want it to be a one-hit-wonder.”
“What Martin does is he writes with that latitude in-built. So that he’ll write the characters where there is room to explore and to find things out within the process,” Connelly said.
“That’s one of the things I love about Martin’s writing, it lacks malice. Some of the characters can be incredibly malicious and cruel, but I never detect any maliciousness from the writer, from the creator of it,” Farrell adds.
McDonagh commented on how Connelly and Farrell are great comedians and how that talent helps get to the truth of it all and explore it without hiding any of its ugliness or shielding how dark these characters might be. Understanding their characters and vulnerabilities helps them trust each other whenever the scene calls for it. “That allows you to nail, I think, the comedy but also get to the sadness,” McDonagh said. “They definitely didn’t want to shy away from any of those sadder or tricker points.”
And though the film mainly focuses on Connelly and Farrell’s characters, McDonagh reminds us how it takes a village to make something like “The Banshees of Inisherin” work. “I wanted all of the supporting characters to have their own singular lives. Every person in life is the lead actor in their own film,” he said. “You should sort of treat all the supporting characters that way.”
The rest of the supporting cast, like Condon, Barry Keogan, and others, shared their thoughts on wanting to work with McDonagh. And likewise for McDonagh, who reminiscences on working with his favorite actors like Condon. Seeing that genuine gratitude and yearning to work with some actors they’ve never worked with before is a refreshing sight to see.
The featurette then goes into the allegorical aspects of what’s happening in the film. While it may center on this war between two people on a very tiny island in the early 1920s, the Irish Civil War is happening on the mainland. So in a sense, it looks at what happens “when there’s a rupture to that pleasant, placid everyday life.”
What I liked about the featurette, though, is how it gets into the decisions made when choosing Inishmore as the place to shoot “The Banshees of Inisherin.” There are a lot of mythical and literary associations on that island. Something which is important to the Irish people. The extraordinary views to go along with those beautiful horizons and exquisite sunsets are really compelling. So much so that it makes me consider wanting to travel there one of these days.
Honestly, you couldn’t ask for any more bonus features than the one provided. The home entertainment version goes even as far as to take a fragment of the “Creating ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’” and present it as the “Shooting with Animals for ‘The Banshees of Inisherin.’ So, one shouldn’t be bothered with watching the much shorter bonus unless you are a massive fan of animals or donkeys and don’t want to see the other minutia that comes with the main bonus feature. But, overall, it’s a fun little bit that gets to the heart of what makes the McDonagh, Connelly, and Farrell dynamic so interesting while also giving us a reason to explore the greater parts of Ireland on our own.
Here are a full list of bonus features that you can find on the “Banshees of Inisherin” digital version.
- Creating The Banshees of Inisherin – Go into the inimitable mind of director-writer Martin McDonagh as he delves into The Banshees of Inisherin, from story inception and reunion of its gifted actors, to searching the islands of Ireland for the perfect, evocative locations.
- Chasing Colm
- Colm Can’t Compose
- Parents’ Grave and Peadar
- Siobhan Crying Too Loud
- Stoic Equals Boring
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is out on digital, Blu-ray, and DVD today.