The Banshees of Inisherin (2022): Comedy/Drama

A man’s obsession to find out why his best friend suddenly stopped talking to him spirals gradually out of control.

Funny, sad, nostalgic, and kinda heart-wrenching. Perfectly balanced, the drama goes hand in hand with the (dark) comedy in a small gossiping Irish society during yet another nasty civil war. The themes of hopelessness and helplessness prevail, characterising the two main heroes, Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), leaving still some room though for the ostensibly inescapable loneliness that tortures Siobhán (Kerry Condon). The underdog of the entourage though, the one that gets life’s shortest straw, is no other than Dominic (Barry Keoghan). What, I believe, in this instance, writer/director’s Martin McDonagh brilliance is, is that all the characters above are experienced through the eyes of the villagers and each others’ (comedy), but also through their own eyes when they are alone and no one is watching (drama) and the striking difference and inevitable clash between the two can be experienced by the audience.

You may have heard of character-driven vs story-driven films; films that are driven by the actions of the characters vs films that are driven by events that set the cogs in motion, respectively. Upon explaining that difference to numerous people who watched it, I asked and everyone told me that The Banshees of Inisherin is a character-driven story because the heroes’ actions escalate the situation and move the story forward. While I agree with that, I will note that the story taking place, profusely, in April 1923, towards the end of that civil war, is not a coincidence. Therefore, I argue that it is a story-driven narrative and it is the war (and, maybe, the wars before it) that has mentally affected everyone the way it has. Not long after the film starts, Pádraic walks along the shore and turns around abruptly when he hears the bombings coming from the mainland. McDonagh stays on him, looking in that direction until he says: “Good luck to ye. Whatever it is you’re fightin’ about…” In its simplicity, this couldn’t be more heartbreaking. He doesn’t know who to say good luck to and he doesn’t know why either. He only knows how he feels about seeing his fellow countrymen kill one another. Respectively, everyone copes with that atrocity in their own secret or more obvious way. And Pádraic, the once optimistic and cheerful chap, gradually… well, you’ll see…

More often than not, I examine the way the filmmaking techniques interact with the film’s narrative, but then there are times that I just let it go. This will be one of them. I’ll tell you this, though: Expect a brilliant soundtrack, astonishing photography, tear-jerking acting, and a thought-provoking journey that will make you laugh as much as it will bring tears to your eyes.

As per McDonagh, “there was no other way for the story to end”. I’m sure there are people who agree as much as there are people who couldn’t agree less. The fact that he makes all of us contemplate it, agree, disagree, or even create our own endings in our heads shows how powerful his story is. An absolute must-watch!

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P.S. It already has and will keep rightfully claiming every award under the sun.

The Hole in the Ground (2019): Drama/Horror/Mystery

A young mother and her son move out to the Irish countryside, but not long after she begins to suspect that it might not be him anymore.

Dark, atmospheric, and suspenseful! Strong inciting incident, followed by solid suspense build-up. And after that… it only gets better! Photography, Art Direction, and Visual Effects create a dark and eerie atmosphere that accompanies the equally dark and eerie narrative. The first stroll in that forest will most certainly convince you…

Mysterious and suspicious events will follow and, sooner or later, with the boy acting the he does, you won’t help but get a feeling of The Omen (1976). But if you think the boy is scary, wait until you meet Noreen, the woman who has sunk into the deepest psychological abyss. So, in regard to what can scare you the most, between the forest, the kid, and the old lady you have quite the choice to make. Eventually though, I don’t think that any of them is more scary than the feeling that your only child… is not actually yours…

The Hole in the Ground joins my pantheon of Irish horror films* that manages, in a tiny budget, to evoke all the intended feelings. Writer Stephen Shields and writer/director Lee Cronin write and direct respectively a solid horror which draws elements from ancient folklore legends to modern psychology. Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Kati Outinen, and James Cosmo do a wonderful job in front of the camera, believing in Cronin’s vision and projecting the intended fears onto the audience. Arguably though, the ending could have been shorter and a lot scarier if it had maintained the, until then levels of plausibility. But, that is subjective so, it’s up to you to decide. Regardless of what you think of the third act, this is a highly recommended indie horror. A24 is always on top of the game!

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* A couple of Irish horrors that stood out for me in recent years are:

A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019):


Sea Fever (2019):

The Cellar (2022): Horror

When a family moves into an old house and the daughter disappears, the mother realises that a sinister entity dwells in the cellar.

Interesting, but standard. I remember watching Elisha Cuthbert in films when she was a teenager. Now, she is a mom of one. So, I’ll try, to my best ability, to pass on, objectively, constructive criticism. There are a lot of outdated techniques here, such as: constant background music to enhance the fear / suspense (the picture should always suffice without it), something’s about to happen but isn’t happening, overreacting to nothing, and, of course, jump scares! For example, I understand the need for creating atmosphere, but Ellie holding a candle while talking on the phone that she could have put on speaker phone and use its torch to see much better where she is going is… irrational. And such irrationalities are scattered throughout the film.

Kuthbert was, among others, Kim Bauer in 24 (2001-2010), Danielle in The Girl Next Door, and Carly in House of Wax (2005). As much as it is hard for me to differentiate her from those roles, I must say that she does a great job as a mom of a teenage girl she once used to be and she is a very decent actress. Brendan Muldowney’s The Cellar though will never be celebrated as they don’t stand out at all due to both outdated narrative and filmmaking techniques. It’ll just make you forget whatever is troubling you for about an hour and a half.

Admittedly, the “steps-counting” sequence is unexpectedly suspenseful, the mathematical equation is quite innovative, and the ending is very befitting. But the whole should always be greater than the sum of its parts. And in this case, it just isn’t.

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The Cured (2017): Drama / Horror / Sci-Fi

The once-infected world by a disease that was turning people into zombies has now been cured, but those who had turned face now society’s discrimination and wrath for all the things they did.

Reinstatement, remorse, forgiveness, redemption, tolerance, stigmatisation, and family are the exceptional qualities that separate The Cured from the mainstream Hollywood post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak calamity.

I have to thank my mate Gary for reminding me of this one, commenting on #Alive (2020) Acting as a social commentary and fragile post-postapocaliptic metaphor for the real world we currently live in, without getting into historical or sociological analyses, The Cured is indirectly associated with the Irish modern history but also the whole world’s rehabilitation system and the stigma one carries trying to reinstate.

Writer/director David Freyne has done a brilliant job behind the camera, and Sam Keeley gives the justice broken Senan deserves. Actor/producer Elliot Page has always been amazing in everything he’s been in and his acting is a force to be reckoned with.

The (North and South) Irish film school of horror is making huge steps over the last few years, rightfully earning its stripes in the industry. If you are not familiar with Sea Fever (2019) and A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019) make sure you spend some time to get around them.

The film’s title would have worked equally well as The Cur(s)ed.

Stay safe!

Sea Fever (2019): Horror / Sci-Fi

A doctoral student joins the crew of a trawler that encounters an unknown species which infects their water supply.

The photography is the first thing that will get your attention. Dark, with a claustrophobic mise-en-scène, it will captivate you, as well “trap” you in that trawler and “force” you to take the journey with the crew. The editing’s brilliant match cuts connect very interesting visuals that move the story forward keeping only what is necessary and leading you to the third act’s suspenseful denouement. Hermione Corfield is the right choice for the awkward, antisocial, doctoral student whose acting adds extra believability to the film’s scientific, yet realistic horror. The rest of the cast also deserves a massive “BRAVO” as they make their respective roles utterly relatable. Writer / director Neasa Hardiman brings to life an excellent Irish horror/sci-fi and, I for one, look forward to watching more of her future endeavours.

Yes, you’ve probably seen films like Ghost Ship (1980), Virus (1999), or Triangle (2009) but Sea Fever has it’s own story to tell and it’s highly recommended. It escapes (for the most part) the Hollywood standards and cliches in both character and story development and creates an intriguing premise that will keep you on the edge of your seats.

Unfortunately, our dramatic and devastating reality makes Sea Fever very timely and adds even further realism to its horrific theme and our even more horrific reality.

Stay safe!