VENICE — When it comes to feuds, this year’s Venice Film Festival has really overdelivered.
First, the director Alejandro G. Iñárritu went after the Venice critics who’d been unkind to his new film, “Bardo,” claiming that their reviews had a “racist undercurrent.” Then the cast and crew of “Don’t Worry Darling” landed messily on the Lido, where the director Olivia Wilde addressed rumors that she had fallen out with her lead, Florence Pugh, and social-media sleuths debated footage that appeared to show Harry Styles spitting on his co-star Chris Pine at the movie’s premiere. (Not true, said Pine’s rep.)
And then there’s another feud — this one contained to the big screen — that has prompted just as much Venice chatter, if fewer bruised star egos. It’s the one at the core of “The Banshees of Inisherin,” the new film from writer-director Martin McDonagh, about two Irish friends who’ve had a falling-out.
What’s the source of their enmity? That’s what Farrell’s confused Padraic would like to know: One day, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) just decided to end things. No more chats. No more drinks at the pub. And every time Padraic asks him what’s the matter, Colm only gets more upset and unwilling to engage.
The film’s stakes appear to be low, at first, and you might wonder if McDonagh wanted a more intimate canvas after making his last movie, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” But “The Banshees of Inisherin” eventually reveals itself as a metaphor for Ireland’s internal strife, as men who should be kin can’t help but clash. By the end, even poor, kindhearted Padraic is issuing threats of violence against the man he used to consider his best friend in the world.
The film was rapturously received here in Venice, earning a lengthy standing ovation and rave reviews from Variety (“quietly magnificent”) and The Hollywood Reporter (“unexpectedly poignant”). I expect plenty of awards chatter will follow, but Farrell should earn the biggest pop. The actor makes great hay of Padraic’s predicament: He’s funny and finally moving as this sweet soul is pushed to the breaking point by his friend’s detachment. In a year when Farrell has shown such committed performances in “The Batman,” “After Yang” and “Thirteen Lives,” this could be the one that earns him his first Oscar nomination.
And if voters really take to the film, it could earn a spread not unlike “Three Billboards,” which was nominated for seven Oscars and won two. Gleeson is in top form as the obstinate Colm, and the supporting performances from Kerry Condon (as Farrell’s sister) and Barry Keoghan (as his troubled friend) are showy and memorable in the way that Oscar voters like.
Expect recognition for McDonagh’s screenplay, too. “I can’t imagine ever passing on anything he writes because he’s such an extraordinary writer,” Farrell said at the Venice news conference for the film. “The Banshees of Inisherin” reunites him and Gleeson with McDonagh for the first time since “In Bruges,” and Farrell praised the writer-director’s yen for conversation.
“When push comes to shove, we will always return to good chats,” he said. “We’re so quick to cancel now with cancel culture and all these things, but to actually have discourse — to have conversation and exchange ideas in a way that is as open to your opinion being changed as it is to being shared — is a gorgeous thing.”
And if it means that Farrell finally earns his Oscar breakthrough, perhaps there’s a lesson in that: Some feuds actually can have happy endings.