This piece contains spoilers for The Banshees of Inisherin.
“You used to be nice. Or did you never used to be? Oh, God. Maybe you never used to be.” When that line of dialogue was uttered by a crestfallen Colin Farrell during the emotional climax of The Banshees of Inisherin, a loud crack was heard amongst the audience in the theater where I was watching the movie. It was the sound of my heart breaking.
Colin Farrell showcased some of the most diverse range in acting in 2022. He started off the year strong, with a double release of The Batman, where he gave the unrecognizable performance of Oswald Cobblepot (aka Penguin), and in After Yang (which is technically a 2021 film, but didn’t receive a United States theatrical release until March 2022), where he played the adoptive father of a robotic daughter, seeking to repair her.
Then, he gave an incredible performance in Thirteen Lives, which follows the true story of the Tham Luang cave rescue. Banshees was his fourth theatrical release of 2022, for which he has been nominated for 51 acting awards for his performance as Pádraic Súilleabháin, spanning big name awards like the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, to numerous critics association awards.
I think it’s safe to say 2022 was the year of Farrell.
While all the actors nominated for Best Actor are worthy of the award in their own right, Colin Farrell deserves consideration for his raw and vulnerable performance in The Banshees of Inisherin. When we think of “Oscar-worthy performances,” too often do our minds automatically turn to someone doing “the most” acting. Screaming, yelling, crying, giving a “power” monologue. Colin Farrell does all of the above in Banshees, but in a beautifully subdued way – not an easy feat.
One of the things I love most about Banshees is the fact that I feel like I pick up something different each time I watch it. The first time I saw it, I walked away feeling weirdly uncomfortable. I even joked that this movie should have been classified as a horror film. We all fear a universe where we wake up and find our closest friends no longer like us. Anxiety can pick at your brain and mess with your feelings, daunting you with the ever horrid questions of: Is everyone mad at me? Is everyone hanging out without me? Are people talking bad about me behind my back? For Pádraic, the answer to all of the above is yes.
Pádraic is a good friend, a kind soul, and a good caretaker to his donkey, Jenny. He’s crushed to learn that his best friend, Colm (Brendan Gleeson), now wants nothing to do with him, as he is too “dull.” The film centers around Pádraic’s desperate attempts to win Colm’s favor back, and Colm’s increasingly more aggressive attempts to push him away.
Colm’s sudden disinterest in Pádraic’s friendship ultimately has nothing to do with Pádraic himself, as Colm is facing existential dread of fearing that he will leave this world with nothing “noteworthy” behind, and he conflates Pádraic’s kindness with dullness. It all reaches a tipping point when Colm’s barriers result in an accidental tragedy, and the tables turn as Pádraic now seeks revenge.
Throughout it all, Farrell is giving a performance that offers just about everything: laugh-out-loud comedy bits, touching tender moments, heartbreaking loss. This provides Farrell the opportunity to showcase the range that he consistently demonstrates he is capable of. The emotional climax scene, in which Pádraic confronts Colm about the repercussions of this entire conflict is one of the more impactful scenes of the film (and I’d be shocked if it’s not the clip shown for Farrell when the nominations are read off during the ceremony).
Pádraic is angry and grieving. His beloved donkey has been killed as a result of Colm’s strange devotion to pushing Pádraic away, and he is telling Colm such. It would have been easy for an actor to use this scene as an opportunity to scream at the camera, wailing in agony and grievance. And while Farrell does not hold back on the visible fury, there is a quiet subtlety to the performance. One that allows Gleeson the opportunity to share one of his more emotional moments, as she shows genuine remorse for his actions. The ability to give and take during a scene is another mark of a great actor, and both Farrell and Gleeson showcase such in spades throughout this film.
While multiple actors in the Best Actor category are given the ability to demonstrate similar subtle yet powerful performances, the range in which Farrell showcases in this film, which mirrors the diversity in performances he gave throughout all of 2022, makes him a worthy contender for Best Actor.