Another year, another Golden Globes, famously relegated to be the little brother of the All-Important Oscars. The awards are inherently political, from non-English language movies only getting one category — as if they are all the same — to the disproportionate number of men and white people winning, it is a trophy fraught with political incorrectness. Personally, this year I was disappointed by how many Elvis nominations there were (Best Drama, really?). But nonetheless, I think most of the wins were well-deserved. Winner of Best Drama The Fablemans, will be in cinemas in Ireland on January 27. The White Lotus of course, with a plethora of nominations, saw Jennifer Coolidge win Best Supporting Actress (finally, a woman over 40 is recognised as having talent). My personal favourite movie of the year, Everything Everywhere All At Once, saw Michelle Yeoh win Best Actress, and certainly is one to watch out for in the Oscars.
However, it was the Banshees of Inisherin which had the most wins and nominations. It brought home Best Screenplay (Martin McDonagh), Best Actor (Colin Farrell) and Best Comedy. This was a pleasant surprise for me. After watching the film, I believed it was much too “Irish” to translate anywhere else. But I think this is McDonagh’s secret weapon. He is almost Jane Austen-esque in his ability to create rich, interesting, tiny worlds. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri was similar in its unapologetic sense of place. As an Irish person, I didn’t quite understand all of the little quirks of the characters, their ways of reacting or speaking. Sometimes, it is through detailed specificity that we achieve universality, something that McDonagh uses to his advantage. Although the overtones of the civil war may seem like subtle undertones and the irony of a garda drinking illegal poitín may be lost on a non-Irish person, the fact that a man would literally prefer to cut off his own fingers than talk about his feelings translates into any culture. Not to mention the fact that the whole cast of Banshees were phenomenal. Barry Keoghan was as endearing as he was frustratingly annoying, perfectly capturing the little brother-big brother relationship that he and Padraic have.
“The Banshees of Inisherin is sweet and sad, with all the trappings of a more pretentious, arthouse film in terms of cinematography and pace, but none of the self-indulgence.”
But the appeal is not universal. The film went home empty-handed from the Critics’ Choice Awards after being nominated for nine different awards. The Critics’ Choice Awards are arguably a fairer and more diverse set of awards compared to the Golden Globes, which is seen by many as round one of The Oscars. Perhaps the movie’s genuineness is too jarring for some. Colin Farrell is a little too earnest, the Hiberno-English is a little too twee. But I think that just adds to its charm. It is silly, wide-eyed and innocent. It is sweet and sad, with all the trappings of a more pretentious, arthouse film in terms of cinematography and pace, but none of the self-indulgence.
Some have been referring to it as an almost Spaghetti Western (may I suggest Paddy Western), and I think this is a perfect encapsulation of Banshees’ ridiculous drama. The characters are unrefined: eating with their mouths full, drinking from two in the day until all hours, and to read is to be different from everyone else. It is set in a lawless place, with no priest, only a statue of Mary which haunts the movie — her antagonist, the Banshee — who has much more influence on the goings on of the community. The only representative of law and order is a pathetic, aggressive man who beats his son with a kettle. The characters are aimless and lethargic, looking for ways to fill their days. No one has control over their fate. Siobhán, played fantastically by Kerry Condon, doesn’t decide to go to the mainland — she is confronted with five fingers in her front garden and realises she has no other choice but to leave. This felt like commentary on the Civil War, something that Ireland is still struggling to articulate. The film perfectly depicts how petty arguments can quickly spiral…
However, Banshees is not the only film that deserves a mention with regards to Irish talent in the industry. Charlotte Wells’ Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal, received critical acclaim after winning the British Independent Film Award, and was nominated for the Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize. Mescal resisted being typecast to always play “the Hot Guy” after the show Normal People. He displays himself as a mature actor in Aftersun, and has far exceeded the role of mere teenager in coming-of-age films.
“It makes sense that it will be the likes of Paul Mescal, Colm Báiread, Saoirse Ronan and Lenny Abrahamson that will go down in history as harking a new day for the increasingly homogenous film scene.”
It is honestly not surprising that the Irish are finally getting recognised for our booming film scene. We are, after all, a creative nation and we have managed to blow every other country out of the water considering our small population size — be that our Eurovision stats or our Nobel laureates. There is something palatable about Irish art, I think, if you are not Irish. We speak around our trauma rather than at it, so people can project whatever emotions they like onto us. We are hilarious, but in a forbidden way. We make the jokes that others won’t. There’s a reason why for years only Scottish and Irish characters were allowed to drink alcohol in Disney movies (that reason was unfair stereotyping, but you get my point). James Joyce invented a new style of telling stories, so it makes sense that it will be the likes of Paul Mescal, Colm Báiread, Saoirse Ronan and Lenny Abrahamson that will go down in history as harking a new day for the increasingly homogenous film scene. According to Variety magazine, “Ireland has become a capital of film-making” and I think they’re right.