Film Picks: The Banshees Of Inisherin, Tar, The Nice Guys

Brendan Gleeson (left) and Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin. PHOTO: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY

The Banshees Of Inisherin (M18)

114 minutes, now showing, 4 stars

It is 1923 and Ireland is in the midst of a civil war. Friends Colm (Brendan Gleeson) and Padraic (Colin Farrell) have spent their lives on a speck of rock off the west coast, meeting at the island’s lone pub every day to chat about the same topics. Colm suddenly announces that he wants to be left alone. A distraught Padraic refuses to accept the decision, leading to actions that will shake up the community.

Is Colm, in asking to be left alone, being unreasonable? Does Padriac’s reaction stem from selfishness or concern for the older man? Is Padraic right to feel betrayed after having invested so much in a friendship? Can a village be too small to tolerate an eccentric?

In a village steeped in Catholicism, one man draws a line in the sand and another chooses to ignore it. The result is a charming drama-comedy about those who prefer a calm, predictable sadness over unstable joy.

Through Colm and Padraic, Oscar-winning British-Irish writer-director Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017) has found two compelling characters to animate his thoughts about war, Irish rural miserabilism and what it means to ache for a life one cannot yet define. – John Lui

Tar (M18)

158 minutes, now showing, 5 stars

Cate Blanchett as Lydia Tar in a still from Tar. PHOTO: UIP

Cate Blanchett is the imperious orchestral conductor of the film’s title who has reached the pinnacle by becoming the first principal female conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Lydia Tar is brilliant, manipulative and exacting, and Blanchett is a tour de force as this towering intellect in sleek tailored suits.

Her fall from grace is a familiar story in today’s cancel culture. Does genius excuse bad behaviour? Can a disgraced artist not be recognised still for the greatness of her art?

American film-maker Todd Field is back writing and directing his first film since his 2006 acclaim for Little Children. His storytelling is controlled and elliptical, but watch closely, for there are signs of trouble – what are those surreal noises at night? – throughout this psychologically charged character study. – Whang Yee Ling

The Nice Guys (M18)

116 minutes, available on Netflix from Tuesday, 4 stars

The Nice Guys stars Russell Crowe (left) and Ryan Gosling. PHOTO: Warner Bros

If a movie has tough guys who hide their emotions behind a shield of sardonic humour, chances are it was written by Shane Black.

As screenwriter, he created the repartee between Tony Stark and James Rhodes (Robert Downey Jr and Don Cheadle) in Iron Man 3 (2013), and the insults Riggs threw at Murtaugh (Mel Gibson and Danny Glover) in the Lethal Weapon series (1987 to 1998).

As writer-director, Black is on familiar ground in this under-appreciated 2016 buddy comedy. Set in 1977 Los Angeles, Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a private detective and Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) is an enforcer for hire. March sees Healy as a meathead; Healy thinks March is a softie. They are forced to team up to look into the disappearance of an actress, Amelia (Margaret Qualley).

The jokes – both visual and verbal – are funny and Gosling and Crowe give very charming, lighter-than-air performances as lowlife sleuths in a city filled with hustlers.

References to Tinseltown’s main business abound. Both Crowe and Kim Basinger (who appears here as a high-ranking lawyer) were in L.A. Confidential (1997), another movie about the movie business in which Crowe plays a man who uses his fists as a primary investigative tool. – John Lui

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