- Martin McDonagh
- Run Time
- 1 hour and 54 minutes
VP Content Ratings
- Sex & Nudity
- Star Rating
The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.
Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not find words of knowledge.
We might expect that the new film of the creator of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri would be different, and Martin McDonagh certainly does not disappoint us. His bizarre tale is set far from the western USA, on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. Though set in 1923, late in the Irish civil war, it deals with a conflict closer to home. Its concern is for the end of the longtime friendship between Padraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson). It is considered a comedy, though I must say a very dark one, the joke arising from monumental stubbornness.
It begins with Padraic paying a visit to the cottage of his old friend and Colm refusing to answer the door, even though the doorknocker can see his friend sitting at his table. Padraic gives up and journeys on the local pub where the two are accustomed to hang out together.
When Padraic later confronts his friend, Colm informs him that he no longer likes him, so he will no longer talk with him. Padraic, taken aback, tries to argue his friend out of his decision and to find out the reasons, but about all that Colm will say is that Padraic talks too much. The pub customers and the bar tender are also puzzled, but accept Colm’s decision to sit and drink alone.
Padraic, however, will not. He discusses his plight with his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and the troubled young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan). Padraic continues to force himself upon his former friend, despite the threats of Colm. The bizarre thing about those threats is that they are not against Padraic—Colm threatens to cut off one of his own fingers, each time Padraic bothers him. This would be extreme for any man, even more so because Colm is a talented fiddle player. He has been trying to perfect a song for which he will be remembered, but how can he continue if he removes his fingers? Padraic is not the brightest in the community, so Colm feels his time spent with the man is time wasted.
The rest of the film shows the action spiraling out of control, fueled by Padraic’s streak of stubbornness, countered by that of Colm in sticking with his threat, that rally is a promise. There is also a death in the community—by suicide and by choking —though it is neither that of the two antagonists. The latter is that of Colm’s beloved donkey which he has treated as a pet. The poor thing tried to eat one of Colm’s bloody fingers which its owner had hurled against Padraic’s cottage. Yeah, very funny.
The climax is a fiery one that—well, as I have written concerning other films, you must learn for yourself. What an unusual tale of stubbornness, one that reminds me of Dr. Suess’s whimsical parable of the two Zaxes traveling in opposite directions on a path and which refuse to give way to the other, both standing there for years facing each other and refusing to budge. (See Dr. Seuss’s delightful book The Sneeches and Other Stories, pp. 26-35.)
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are at the top of their form as villagers at loggerheads. Some see this as a tale of male loneliness. Colm is the artist in a village where no one can appreciate his true worth. He says, “I’m better than just spending every day of my life, like clockwork, showing up at the pub, talking about the same bullshit to the same people until I die.” It is almost as if Colm has read proverbs 14:7 and decided to act upon it. Padraic is too dull minded to understand this, yet cut off by his friend, he is lonely too—even more so when his beloved donkey dies. And lonely men may resort to desperate measures—measures that are both comic and tragic. What a strange yet compelling parables writer/director Martin McDonagh has conjured up for our amusement and enlightenment.
This review is in the January issue of VP along with a set of questions for reflection and/or discussion. If you have found reviews on this site helpful, please consider purchasing a subscription or individual issue in The Store.