It is 1923 and the Irish Civil War wearisomely continues; mainland rifle and heavy weapon fire may be heard sporadically on Inisherin, an island off the east coast of Ireland; IRA man , James Tierney, has been captured and is due to be executed imminently.
Inisherin is the setting for Martin McDonagh’s latest movie with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson; its rugged, haunting scenery is majestically captured in some fine cinematography. Colm (Gleeson) and Padraic (Farrell) meet daily to share a pint and a bit of craic. The relationship unexpectedly fissures when Colm entertains dreams of posterity and wants to be remembered for more than discussions about the content of animal excrement. Padraic abruptly learns that he is no longer welcome; his attempts to restore the friendship provide moments of high comedy and poignant desolation.
McDonagh has enjoyed signiicant success in the theatre and those skills illuminate the script and direction; actors require characters who are multi-dimensional and lines which have meaning and are contextually appropriate; music, set and costume are important dramatic forces in a production. These requirements are well fulfilled in the film; each of the cast makes a substantial contribution to its success and the two leads , Farrell and Gleeson, provide immense performances; all are sympathetic with the exception of the oleaginous priest and the violent constable; paternal brutality towards sons was the accepted norm for too long in Ireland. Each of the other characters is allowed to breathe and develop; Barry Geoghan inhabits the calamitous and heartbreaking village idiot, Dominic, while Siobhan(Kerry Condon) is Synge’s Pegeen Mike , upbraiding Colm on his pointless apprehension about Godot – a meeting of Synge and Beckett.
The movie might be a metaphor for Ireland’s history of pointless violence from the Civil War era to the recent shooting of journalist, Lyra McKee. The flashes of senseless brutality that are witnessed in the small Inisherin community were replicated in the north of the mainland for the final thirty years of the last century; the slaughter of innocent , young civilians on Bloody Sunday in Derry, the bungled and reprehensible Shankhill bombing, the massacre of DuPont factory manager, Geoffrey Agate and the callous murder of customers in the Rising Sun Bar at Greysteel. McDonagh skillfully evokes memories of these and the futulity of violence.
The film ends with Colm and Patraic going separate ways; compromise is impossible.
“There was no alternative to armed conflict,” a leading Irish politician recently claimed.