From “Nomadland” to “Birdman,” Searchlight Pictures always finds itself in the thick of the awards race, and the indie studio may have just secured itself another ticket to the Oscars with “The Banshees of Inisherin.” The darkly comic fable from Martin McDonagh had a sensational debut on Monday at the Venice Film Festival, where it earned a 13-minute standing ovation. That is the longest and loudest reception for any film to debut on the Lido this season, at least based on the ever so slightly unscientific applause meter.
McDonagh and stars Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon hugged each other throughout the ovation and walked down from the mezzanine to the orchestra. To be fair, the clapping may have been unfairly supersized. That’s because Farrell broke with tradition by wading into the crowd to take selfies with fans and sign autographs, which only made the cheering grow louder and more sustained. At one point, actress and writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge, McDonagh’s partner, leaned over her chair and kissed her boyfriend as he basked in the adulation. The love for “The Banshees of Inisherin” was so intense, with the crowd leaping to its feet with such passion, that the film’s big moment started to bleed into the red carpet debut of Olivia Wilde’s psychological thriller “Don’t Worry Darling.” Ushers at Venice had to scurry about trying to get audience members to leave the theater so the next film premiere could start.
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Not only does “The Banshees of Inisherin” seem like a sure-fire best picture candidate, but Farrell could land the first best actor nomination of his career, and Gleeson and Condon may be strong supporting actor and actress candidates. The film tells the off-beat story of two best buddies (Farrell and Gleeson) who abruptly end their friendship, a dissolution that has a seismic impact on the rural community in which they live.
Critics loved the picture, with Variety‘s Guy Lodge praising “The Banshees of Inisherin” as a “quietly magnificent film so caustically, hauntingly and sometimes raucously sad.” He also heaped kudos on McDonagh’s script and direction, as well as his deft handling of the performers.
Venice has played host to a number of movies this year that will likely compete with “The Banshees of Inisherin” for awards love, including Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” which earned raves for its star Brendan Fraser, and Todd Fields’ “Tár,” a drama with Cate Blanchett that marked the director’s first feature in 16 years.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” reunites McDonagh with both Gleeson and Farrell. The three previously worked together on 2008’s “In Bruges.” McDonagh most recently directed 2017’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” another Searchlight release that was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning two for the performances of Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” opens in theaters on Oct. 21.