Directed by Martin McDonagh — Screenplay by Martin McDonagh.
By now, Martin McDonagh, a long-time celebrated British-Irish playwright, has established himself as a brilliant writer-director with a home in the dark comedy genre. His Oscar-winning short Six Shooter, as well as his equally excellent first two features In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, set up his name as one to keep an eye on as a filmmaker. With Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDonagh had a genuine awards frontrunner, and that extra spotlight, or magnifying glass, revealed a far more divisive and controversial film than the 7 Oscar nominations (and excellent Rotten Tomatoes score) may have made general audiences suspect. I’ve enjoyed all of McDonagh’s films, including Six Shooter, but Three Billboards didn’t land as well for me as In Bruges or Seven Psychopaths had. Therefore it makes me happy to say that The Banshees of Inisherin, his latest film, is a return to form and arguably as good as, if not better than, In Bruges.
Directed by Sebastián Lelio — Screenplay by Emma Donoghue, Alice Birch, and Sebastián Lelio.
General audiences are unlikely to see an opening shot as surprising or even mystifying as the opening shot in Sebastián Lelio’s The Wonder. If you go in knowing that you are about to watch a period drama set in the 1800s, then you’re going to raise your eyebrows when you see what awaits you. Lelio’s first shot shows an empty film set warehouse and a scaffolded house that likely contains a principal set for the film. A female voice sets the mood by way of an absorbing and mysterious narration that emphasizes how the characters in the story cling to and fully believe the stories they tell. As the camera glides into a set containing Florence Pugh in-character, the film begins properly. It is a showy opening that is effective in underlining the questionable reality of the stories we ourselves gather around a television — or inside a theater — to watch, and, even though this framing device is a narrative-breaking technique (not its only fourth wall-breaker in the film) that isn’t wholly unique (just see last year’s HBO Scenes From A Marriage remake), it absolutely is an opening that takes your hand and asks you to partake in the story’s mystery. I think you should accept the offer and the instruction to buy into what you’re seeing.