Reel Time with Sister Rose

Scene from Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin

A well-deserved double winner at the 2022 Venice Film Festival (best actor for Colin Farrell and best screenplay for writer-director Martin McDonagh), The Banshees of Inisherin delves into Celtic folklore, dark humor, and graphic violence. 

On the surface, Pádraic (Colin Farrell) is a nice, unmarried, middle-aged working man who lives with his unmarried sister, Siobhan (Kerry Condon), off the Irish coast. They are close enough to hear the explosions of the ongoing Irish Civil War on the mainland in the 1920s. He loves his miniature donkey, Jenny, and his best friend is a nice older musician, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson). Every day they meet at the local pub to talk as friends do. 

One day, Colm tells Pádraic he doesn’t want to be friends anymore. In an almost childlike way, Pádraic is incredulous and deeply hurt. Colm refuses to explain, and no one else can understand either. When Pádraic won’t let the man be, Colm threatens to cut off one of his own fingers, that he needs to play his instruments, every time the younger man even says a word to him. When Colm follows through on his promises, rather than drive away Pádraic, personal tragedy ensues. 

The title of the film says it all: A banshee, here taking the form of an old woman dressed in black, is a harbinger of death. One interpretation of Colm’s behavior is that he is a selfish old man. Another is that he fears death and chooses to protect his friend from grief by pushing him away. Yet another interpretation is to imagine that Pádraic is a kind of God-like figure that Colm lashes out against, projecting on him all his fears about death and dying. Indeed, in a hilarious and telling confession scene, Colm reveals to the priest that he is depressed, and that the thought of death may be at the heart of it. 

Farrell gives the best performance of his career, and Gleeson is always good. McDonagh seems once again to be taking inspiration from the American gothic novelist Flannery O’Connor, as he did in his 2017 Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Banshees overflows with human and Catholic themes that were dear to O’Connor, as well as the action of grace, narrative style, and flawed character ensembles. I think McDonagh gets O’Connor in ways not seen before, beginning with his startling 2008 film In Bruges and following through with Three Billboards

Not yet rated, R  • Racism, intolerance. 

The Son

Based on director Florian Zeller’s 2018 stage play, and cowritten for the screen by Christopher Hampton, The Son follows Zeller’s 2020 film The Father, for which he and Hampton won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay. 

Nicholas (Zen McGrath) is the 17-year-old son of divorced parents, Peter (Hugh Jackman) and Kate (Laura Dern), with whom he lives. Peter is now remarried to Beth (Vanessa Kirby), and they have an infant son. When Beth discovers that Nicholas has missed a month of school, she reaches out to Peter. Nicholas moves in with his dad, who soon learns that his son has been cutting himself. 

Peter and Kate recognize that Nicholas needs help, and Peter makes an appointment with a therapist. Beth welcomes Nicholas but fears the young man whom she finds troubled. Peter, who detests hunting, keeps a rifle that his father gave him years before. Nicholas questions why he kept it if he dislikes hunting so much, but Peter just shrugs. 

The Son is a film about loving parents who see signs of their son’s distress but are unable or unwilling to understand what they might mean. It is a story about listening but not really hearing the cries of a tortured and manipulative teenager. It is also about staying the course when a mental health professional tells them that sometimes love is not enough. There’s really no excuse, however, for an intelligent man like Peter to keep a rifle with a vulnerable person in the house. 

Hugh Jackman is totally believable as Peter. When he visits his own father (Anthony Hopkins), he begins to understand his own selfish perspectives and behavior. 

Not yet rated • Themes of marital infidelity, self-harm, domestic unrest. 

Don’t Worry Darling 

This rather strange psychological drama takes place in the early 1950s in a cookie-cutter town in California named Victory. It was created by Frank (a creepy Chris Pine), a man with a mission to change the world. The men go to work every day and the women stay home, keeping house and living a stylish, upper-middle-class society life. There are very few children. 

Alice (Florence Pugh), who is married to Jack (Harry Styles), starts to question Frank about “the mission” at a company dinner. Then things start to unravel. 

Pugh excels in this film, directed by Olivia Wilde, who also plays one of the wives. Pugh deserves a better vehicle for her considerable talent.  

Not yet rated, R • Sexuality, psychological terror, misogyny. 

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