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My Buddy, Mr J. Christopher Wilson is reviewing some movies and series.  He has agreed for us to post his reviews here.

THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is not what you expect, even if you go in expecting anything, which you probably should not.

Inisherin, an island right off the coast of civil war-torn Ireland, is the home of an isolated community of Irish peasants. These folks are poor and figuratively in-bred; they are depressed if not mentally ill, soaking in the quagmire that is their stagnant and uneventful lives.

Twenty years ago, I worked in the disability field and I had a client who lived on a cut of land next to the Mark Twain National Forest. This mom and daughter lived in a M.A.S.H. tent with random boards nailed up as makeshift walls. I could see light between the cracks in the wood and feel the draft. They had no running water at all and used an outhouse. Just 20 miles away, thriving modern communities lived a very different experience. The Ozarks, where I live, is full of these kinds of small, isolated communities.

Like some small rural communities ravaged by a spring tornado, sometimes the people get stuck, never recovering from the tragedy despite the fact that they continue on. Sometimes an entire community becomes depressed.

The farming village of Inisherin is stuck—all of them—wrapped in a cloak of despair that they seem unaware of, aside from the civil war cannon and gun fire heard from the mainland. This despair comes out in unhealthy and self-harming ways. This story is void of suicide, but villager a’plenty is plagued with alcoholism, masked rage, sadness, and self-mutilation. Even the policeman beats and sexually assaults his adult son (you never see the violence, only the after effects) and the townsfolk seem apathetic to it.

The awful despair is mostly shown through the friendship of Colm and Padraic, two adult best friends. Colm, the musician, decides Padraic is boring and holding him back from his musical legacy and cuts ties completely. While the hurt is profound regardless where one lives, on a small island, finding new friends is limited. Padraic has. I other real friends. There’s one general store and one pub.

Padraic does his best to court Colm’s friendship again, but his attempts only ignite more drama and ire rather than curtail it. To extreme ends, the friendship devolves into violence, which we do see.

BANSHEES OF INISHERIN is labeled a tragicomedy, which, I suppose is fitting. While there are funny moments of quirky human behavior and dialogue, comedy is the wrong term. It is a tragedy and the sadness oozes from the screen, overshadowing the comedic scenes.

The acting and script are superb, but I left the film feeling dejected and mournful. Perhaps, I know too many people or communities like this and it hit too close to home for me to find the humor, even if it was sardonic. With that said, the film was strong and I understand how it received and won so many awards so far. I am glad I watched it and I am glad it is behind me.

For context and literary analysis with spoilers, the linked article provides an excellent understanding of the complexity and artistic value of BANSHEES. However, I recommend reading it after viewing the film.
Grade A-
Available on HBO Max

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