2022 Movie Reviews: The Banshees of Inisherin & Decision to Leave

Two of the best films of the year. And funniest.

The Banshees of Inisherin

Celebrated playwright turned filmmaker Martin McDonagh has made his smallest film yet with The Banshees of Inershin, a darkly acidic comedy surrounding an elaborately sad friendship breakup on a tiny Irish island, 100 years ago. Imagine if your entire life took place within roughly a four mile radius. I’d probably go insane like Brendan Gleeson‘s Colm, who after decades of chumming it up with his dull drinking buddy, Pádraic (Colin Farrell) has decided he needs to sever ties if he ever wants to achieve anything. What is anything you ask? In Colm’s mind, it’s composing a piece of music or poetry that will be remembered long after he passes. What he doesn’t realize is he most certainly doesn’t possess the talent to produce something that will withstand centuries of decay. He also doesn’t realize, or simply doesn’t care, about the emotional toll this breakup has on Pádraic. Colm is a total fucking dick and a huge doggone snob, brooding around the town like he’s some tortured genius or something. He’s nothing more than a poser and the film uses this to its comedic advantage. It also uses it to its dramatic advantage as well – the most cathartic moments of the film come when a heartbroken Pádraic musters up the self-respect to call Colm out on it. McDonagh has made dark comedies before, it’s essentially all he makes, but never one this depressing, mostly stemming from how emotionally affected Pádraic is by this. The difference in The Banshees of Inershin is that he replaces his typical shock value of dead kids and racist dwarfs in In Bruges or dead kids and racist cops in Three Billboards with this quiet sadness that permeates the entire film, until it feels a bit too heavy to breathe. It’s perfectly tempered with what is McDonagh‘s funniest script to date, featuring wonderfully three-dimensional characters inhabited by four brilliant performances. Brendan Gleeson is predictably outstanding here as a first year theater student in the body of 20th-century Irish heavy, and Colin Farrell delivers the performance of his career with his most vulnerable and funny character yet. The cast is rounded out by Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s sister and Barry Keogan as the town idiot. Known for playing Mike’s boring daughter-in-law on Better Call Saul, Kerry Condon is finally given a chance to flex her acting muscle for mainstream American audiences. In fact, she’s so good that a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination seems inevitable at this point. Way less likely to receive a supporting acting nomination (since he’s competing with Gleeson) is DC’s new Joker, Barry Keogan. A brilliant young character actor who is typically the best part of anything he’s in (The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Green Knight, American Animals), Keogan might be the best part of Banshees. It’s a wonderfully absurd and physical performance that always enriches Farrell‘s Pàdraic. There’s a slight dip in the middle in terms of pacing and it could have been maybe ten minutes shorter, but this is a spectacularly uncomplicated film that understands strong characters and quality dialogue are all it really needs. Grade: A- (In Theaters)

Decision to Leave

Another small film that is far more interested in relationship dynamics than particular plot points is Park Chan-wook‘s Decision to Leave, a wonderfully clever and surprisingly funny romantic thriller about a detective (Park Hae-il) who falls in love with a murder suspect (Tang Wei). The film plays almost like if Basic Instinct was more concerned with the emotional component of attraction versus the sexual component and Director Park wisely makes it less about the mystery of whether or not she did it (she obviously did) and more about if the two leads are being genuine or duplicitous with each other. Even though the scope is narrowly zeroed in on these two characters, it’s so cleverly shot and edited at every turn, utilizing split screen as well as Hitchcock himself and never adding in anything superfluous. Even if some of the visuals initially feel like Park showing off, you quickly realize they exist to aid the plot or vibes, to communicate something with an image instead of slowing down to articulate it in words. I haven’t seen Tang Wei in a movie since Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, a nearly 3-hour NC-17 rated romantic thriller where she played a spy seducing some government dude for something, I don’t know, don’t really remember. She was excellent in it but the movie itself was a bit of a snooze fest, even with a 5-minute chunk of almost pornographic sex scenes. Here, she’s even better creating an incredibly rich and unpredictable character that is wholly empathetic and a complete fucking mystery at the same time. It’s one of the best performances I’ve seen this year and her male co-star, Park Hae-il, isn’t far behind as a dude constantly haunted by never living up to other people’s expectations of him, not least of all his overbearing wife (a truly wonderful Lee Jung-hyun). This is a really low-key but exceptionally well made thriller that will probably fly pretty far under the radar this year but in eight years or so when everyone’s putting together their Best of the Decade lists, I predict this will be included on nearly all of them. It feels like it has staying power, especially with some truly inspired comedic bits (often physical) peppered throughout the whole thing. Grade: A- (In Theaters)

ALSO STREAMING AND IN THEATERS

MOVIES

Halloween Ends Peacock & In Theaters

TÁRIn Theaters

Nope$19.99 purchase on Amazon

BarbarianHBOMax

DeadstreamShudder

HellraiserHulu

SmileIn Theaters

Top Gun: Maverick$5.99 rental on Amazon

Bodies Bodies Bodies$19.99 purchase on Amazon

Orphan: First Kill Parmount+

PreyHulu

ElvisHBOMax

The Black PhonePeacock

Cha Cha Real SmoothAppleTV+

Fire IslandHulu

TV

The Midnight ClubNetflix

Reservation DogsHulu

The Resort Peacock

Harley QuinnHBOMax

The RehearsalHBOMax

Only Murders in the BuildingHulu

Better Call SaulAMC+

Black BirdAppleTV+

BarryHBOMax

We Own This CityHBOMax

SeveranceAppleTV+

The Kids in the HallAmazon Prime

HeartstopperNetflix

The Righteous GemstonesHBOMax

PachinkoAppleTV+

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