Quick synopsis: On a remote island off the coast of Ireland, Pádraic is devastated when his buddy Colm suddenly puts an end to their lifelong friendship.
I feel I need to watch more of Martin McDonagh. I’ve had a few people recommend In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths to me, saying they seem like my kind of films. Plus I really enjoyed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Okay, maybe “enjoyed” is the wrong word, as it wasn’t exactly a pleasant watch, but it was very good (And weirdly described by Disney+ as a “comedy”). He’s really good at making very dark things which are still weirdly funny. His reputation as some kind of sadistic grim reaper clown continues with this.
It veers from comedy to deeply depressing, swerving between the genres like a drunk driving on a motorway, and with just as devastating consequences. There are a lot of genuine laughs here, but they all come from a dark place. Even when this film is light, it’s not outright light, it’s more like a star in a dark sky. Thematically this makes sense, you couldn’t really have a film about this subject and have it be one of constant comedy, but then again you couldn’t make it completely serious either. The very concept is absurd, as someone points out “he doesn’t want to be your friend anymore? What is he, twelve?”. It’s completely ridiculous and absurd but played straight. It does sound silly at first but think of the amount of popular media about dealing with a break-up. Romantic breakups are taken seriously in art, but there’s not much discussion about the break-up of a friendship, and that can be just as devastating, yet it is seen as a stupid thing to be upset about, especially among men.
It’s a delicate subject to deal with and needs to be handled expertly, which McDonagh manages. One thing I don’t think he pulled off quite as well is the emotion. There are moments towards the end where I know I should have felt something, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t. I think it’s because the emotional baseline was so low, that when it gets low it doesn’t feel as bad as it could in other films. After spending time walking through a monsoon, a cup of water thrown at your face doesn’t bother you quite as much. It leaves you so cold throughout that it is unable to leave you colder when it needs it. Overall I think it needs a bit more warmth to work.
There’s a review in the Boston Globe which describes it as “A short story trying to be a novel”, and I think that sums it up well. It lacks momentum and focus far too often. That’s not to say it’s a bad film, far from it, it’s an incredible watch. It got some REALLY loud laughs from the other people in the audience in the screen I was at. It wasn’t that busy that day but the laughter made it sound packed.
From a technical standpoint, this is amazing. It looks great. It’s not a “wow, so much CGI, how did they do that?” film, it’s a “that shot can be in a poster” kind of beauty. Everything looks stunningly beautiful, so even though the world the film creates is depressing and bleak, it’s still one you want to visit. The performances are among the best this year, Gleeson and Farrell are perfect together, they have good chemistry and it’s a shame they’re not paired together too often. They’d be great on stage together. The ensemble cast is great too, but this definitely belongs to Gleeson and Farrell.
I’m really looking forward to watching this again, just, maybe not for a while. I’m not in that much need of an existential crisis.