Film Review: The Banshees of Inisherin

Colin Farrell gives his best performance in tale of failing friendship

Published by Dereck Majors, Date: November 21, 2022
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People change, and there are often moments where you can pinpoint exactly where things took a turn. It might be a pivotal life moment that makes someone reevaluate everything and everyone in their life. But in the case of Martin McDonagh’s latest comedy, “The Banshees of Inisherin,” there is no moment to pinpoint. 

After a lifetime of friendship, Colm (Brendan Gleeson) decides to stop speaking to Pádraic (Colin Farrell.) Living on a small island off mainland Ireland, this news travels fast. Pádraic isn’t the only one confused by the sudden cold shoulder; so is everyone else in the community.  

Colm claims his decision is in part to focus on his career as a folk musician, with the goal of leaving behind a legacy. Pádraic doesn’t buy into it and presses his old friend for answers, which causes a bigger conundrum: Colm threatens to chop off one of his own fingers with a pair of sheep shears any time Pádraic bothers him. 

The beauty of McDonagh’s script is that he jumps right into the story. We never see a moment before this unusual feud begins to brew, and instead are introduced to Colm and Pádraic as ex-friends from the film’s opening minutes. Not only does this help establish the narrative, but it allows a sense of sympathy for Farrell’s character, who is left in the dark over the end of his longstanding friendship. 

Like McDonagh’s other films and plays, “Banshees” creates a perfect blend of comedy and tragedy, while providing pathos to showcase the humanity in his characters. In his previous film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” which won two Academy Awards in 2018, he highlighted the uselessness of vengeance and the power of forgiveness. In “Banshees,” McDonagh provides a similar moral compass for growing apart from another person who seemed to be cut from the same branch as you. 

The film’s plot is not as simplistic as a failing friendship. It is also a metaphor for the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s. In fact, this battle can be heard across the water throughout “Banshees,” with many characters commenting on the bloodshed from afar.

For those unfamiliar with Irish history, “Banshees” still offers a compelling human story that disregards borders, connecting audiences through shared experiences. 

McDonagh’s script could not be told so elegantly without a strong cast. Just like the writer-director’s previous films, “Banshees” allows actors to bring these often despicable characters to life. While Brendan Gleeson provides a role full of melancholy, Colin Farrell knocks his performance out of the park with a wide range of emotions.

From guilt, confusion, sorrow, retribution to compassion, Farrell carries every scene with facial expressions that tell a story of their own. His pitch-perfect line delivery helps to carry the film’s comedic and dramatic scenes. 

After two career-defining performances in “After Yang” and as the Penguin in Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” Farrell has somehow saved the best for last and provided a perfect example of why he is one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors. 

While McDonagh’s film feels small and intimate in its setting, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a film full of emotions that make its small island feel seem as though it could take place anywhere. Regardless of whether a viewer has been in a friendship that failed, everyone can relate to the theme of trying to create a perception of ourselves within the minds of others.

With “Banshees,” McDonagh has provided us with another film that is not only entertaining, but also thought-provoking. 

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