The setting of the film is obviously meant to represent a larger canvas. Inisherin literally translates as Island of Ireland. But this may be just one of many misdirections by Martin McDonagh who gleefully toys with the tropes of Irish history. Far from being a parable about the distantly-heard Civil War, this is a more universal tale of a small community committed to superficial stability but sitting on a seething mass of resentment and spite.
Aware that he is getting older and believing that he has a duty to develop his talents as a musician, Colm (Gleeson) decides to end his friendship with nice but dim Pádraic (Farrell), whom he has come to consider a distraction. But on a small island, you can’t easily avoid other people.
While the relationship of Gleeson and Farrell in McDonagh’s earlier In Bruges was the classic odd couple familiar from buddy movies – the older, wiser head and the impetuous youth – here it is more obviously the comedy double act of Laurel and Hardy (who inspired Beckett and Pinter, who in turn influenced McDonagh’s theatrical work) that provides the inspiration: the fat fella with the delusions of grandeur and the thin fella as vacant and innocent as the day is long.
Colm’s defining characteristic is not his overweening ambition (he is clearly talented) but his stroppy reaction to not getting his own way. When Pádraic reports Colm’s decision to Dominic (Keoghan) the younger man tartly responds, “What is he, twelve?” The key to all great comedy double-acts is frustration, but Colm’s arises from being trapped in a damaging relationship not with Pádraic but with Inisherin. In contrast, Pádraic’s sister Siobahán (Condon) realises she must escape to grow up.
“It’s as if Vladimir turned to Estragon in the middle of Beckett’s play and declared that whether or not Godot turns up, they are now mortal enemies. As a study of male loneliness and swallowed anger it is weirdly compelling and often very funny.” Peter Bradshaw, Guardian.