The back-to-back arrival of the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals is the traditional kick-off to what's known in Hollywood as "awards competition season." From now until Dec. 31, theaters will be debuting movies looking to be taken seriously as awards contenders. But the ones making significant plays for the Oscars are the ones that premiere in Venice and Toronto. For anglophiles, this is our time for theatrical releases, as British actors (and storytellers) usually lead the charge to land nominations. But while the world has been busy gawping at Harry Styles, Florence Pugh, and Chris Pine, the Irish-based The Banshees of Inisherin has been garnering accolades elsewhere.
Directed by Oscar-winner Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,) the film marks his first set in his native Ireland. A period piece set in 1923 on the fictional island of Inisherin, the story initially presents itself as a simple tale of the dissolving of a lifelong friendship between Pádraic Súilleabháin and Colm Doherty when the latter declares one morning he's done with the other, despite the reality that they will continue to see each other every day. However, those who know the history of the Troubles will recognize the importance of the date — 1923 was the apex of the Irish Civil War and the declaration of the long-sought Irish Free State.
The film stars Brendan Gleeson (The Tragedy of Macbeth) as the older Colm and Colin Farrell (The North Water) as the younger Pádraic. Speaking to Deadline, Gleeson said he felt that despite the film's period piece setting and historical background, it was a necessary story in an era where deep male friendships are scarce. "I'm glad to see male friendship as something valuable at the moment when the readjustment of everyone's relationships with everybody is under reconsideration." The project reunites the two actors for the first time since they starred together in In Bruges. It debuted in Venice in competition and was greeted with rapturous applause by opening night audiences, with a 13-minute standing ovation for Farrell's performance.
Here's the film's synopsis:
Set in 1923 on the fictional island of Inisherin, the film follows lifelong friends Pádraic and Colm, who find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. A stunned Pádraic, aided by his sister Siobhán and troubled young islander Dominic, endeavors to repair the relationship, refusing to take no for an answer. But Pádraic’s repeated efforts only strengthen his former friend’s resolve and when Colm delivers a desperate ultimatum, events swiftly escalate, with shocking consequences.
Like most of McDonagh's films, the cast is kept to a few key figures. Farrell and Gleeson are joined by Kerry Condon (Better Call Saul), who plays Pádraic's sister, Siobhan, and Barry Keoghan (Eternals), who plays Dominic Kearney. The film also co-stars Pat Shortt (Small Town), Gary Lydon (The Clinic), David Pearse (Dalgliesh), Sheila Flitton (Echoes), and Jon Kenny (The Fitz). McDonagh wrote, directed, and produced the film in conjunction with Blueprint Pictures. Searchlight Pictures is distributing the film.
The Banshees of Inisherin will debut worldwide in theaters on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022.