“The Banshees of Inisherin” review: Sorrow mixed with humor

By Alexandra Heilbron on October 28, 2022 | 1 Comment


Set on the fictional island of Inisherin in 1923, The Banshees of Inisherin opens with a cheerful young man named Pádraic (Colin Farrell) walking along the path to his best friend Colm’s house to collect him for their daily visit to the local pub. When he gets there, he knocks but gets no answer. Looking in the window, he can see Colm (Brendan Gleeson) sitting in a chair, smoking and steadfastly ignoring Pádraic.

Confused, Pádraic makes his way to the pub alone, where he’s questioned as to the whereabouts of Colm. Obviously the two are usually seen together at the establishment. When Colm finally makes his way to the pub, and Pádraic innocently tries to get an answer from him as to what’s wrong, Colm tells him, “I just don’t like you no more,” and demands that Pádraic sit elsewhere.

Colm goes on to explain that he finds Pádraic “dull” and doesn’t want to waste his time — which could be better spent writing songs and making music with his fiddle — by listening to Pádraic’s chatter. The exchange leaves Pádraic shocked and heartbroken.

He goes home to the cottage where he lives with his sister. The brainier of the two, she assures him he’s not dull, but the pain and shock remain. He’s in the first stages of grief and just can’t accept that yesterday Colm was his friend, and now he wants nothing to do with him.

For his part, Colm is seriously depressed, but only confides in the local priest. He realizes he’s getting older and has left no mark on the world. At the pub, he compares himself to Mozart, saying he wants to leave something behind for which he’ll be remembered. Pádraic can’t understand why Colm has to become cruel to achieve this.

He continues to try to win Colm back, to find out it was just a joke, or a mistake. But the harder he tries, the angrier Colm becomes, to the point where he threatens to cut off one of his own fingers each time Pádraic talks to him.

Pádraic finds comfort in his animals, including his mini-donkey Jenny who follows him inside the cottage, much to his sister’s annoyance, but he needs human companionship as well.

The story seems more tragedy than comedy, but nonetheless, writer/director Martin McDonagh has penned plenty of humor into the lines and the actors deliver them with perfect timing. Even so, it’s a very dark comedy. It’s heartbreaking to watch Pádraic, an innocent at the beginning of the film, go through various stages of grief. Colin Farrell subtly portrays the changes that Pádraic experiences, as he finally comes to the realization that what started this sorrow had nothing to do with him and everything to do with Colm. Farrell’s performance won him the Best Actor award at this year’s Venice Film Festival, and it’s very likely he’ll score an Oscar nomination as well.

Brendan Gleeson also gives a nuanced performance, as his character tries to keep to his decision with stubborn determination, but eventually his sorrow is evident as he realizes his decision has launched a stream of events that can never be taken back.

The supporting characters add charm to the sparsely populated island setting, including Kerry Condon as Pádraic’s fiercely loyal sister Siobhán, and Barry Keoghan as the abused son of a policeman. There’s also Sheila Flitton as Mrs. McCormick, an old crone whose appearance is equally amusing and frightening at the same time. She foretells the future, and although Pádraic tries to avoid her bleak musings — like the future, she can’t be escaped.

4 out of 5 stars.

The Banshees of Inisherin is now playing in theaters. Click here for showtimes. Click here if you’ve seen the film and would like to rate and/or review it yourself.
Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson in The Banshees of Inisherin



Comments & Discussion

  1. sharon • October 30, 2022 @ 9:52 AM

    If I hadn’t already seen this movie, your review would make me want to.

    It is an excellent review for an excellent movie…if you like a slow-burning drama…which I do.

    There is no need for high-speed car chases. There is no need for special effects. There is no need for anything explicit.

    This is just good story telling about great characters and it doesn’t hurt that along with the always great Colin Farrell, the Emerald Isle (Ireland) with its great expanses of lush, green fields, stone walls and stone houses and its rugged, rocky landscape also star.

  2. Connie Smith • October 31, 2022 @ 8:40 PM

    I�m having trouble getting showtimes.

  3. Janet Kontio • November 2, 2022 @ 11:15 AM

    How long is this playing?
    I hope I didn�t miss it?!
    Janet K


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