‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ Review: Humor and Heart in Irish Dramedy
By Daniel Rester
The Banshees of Inisherin is the latest from Martin McDonagh, the playwright-turned-filmmaker behind the movies In Bruges (2008), Seven Psychopaths (2012), and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017). McDonagh continues his winning streak with this new film, which re-teams him with his In Bruges co-stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. The three of them, along with a terrific cast and crew, work their magic again and make The Banshees of Inisherin one of the best films of 2022.
Taking place in 1923 on the fictional island of Inisherin, the film focuses on herder Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell) as he struggles with his drinking buddy Colm Doherty (Gleeson) suddenly deciding that he doesn’t want to be Pádraic’s friend anymore. Confused and lonely, Pádraic seeks advice from his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and the slow and troubled Dominic (Barry Keoghan). Gossip about the friendship ending spreads in the small town while tensions grow between Colm and Pádraic.
McDonagh shows once again with The Banshees of Inisherin that he is one of the best in the business today when it comes to mixing melancholy and wit into darkly comedic storylines. The plot McDonagh has come up with here is deceptively simple on the surface, but he gives it depth by filling it out with layered characters, hilarious banter, and background politics (the Irish Civil War is talked about and affects the people of Inisherin). The Banshees of Inisherin stays focused on Pádraic trying to get his friend back, with his different attempts to succeed and Colm’s – increasingly wild – rejections making the audience question their friendships and the value of everyday conversations (Colm wants to make music instead of continually wasting time chatting with Pádraic).
The whole cast in The Banshees of Inisherin shines and I wouldn’t be surprised if Oscar nominations are to come for Farrell, Gleeson, Condon, and Keoghan. Farrell is so funny as Pádraic, navigating the sad and nice character with perfect dialogue timing; he also has an amusing relationship with a donkey named Jenny. Gleeson, a master of grumpy stares, makes you understand Colm’s ideas while also being shocked by his actions. Condon brings warmth to Siobhán, who is always the smartest character in the room. Keoghan, meanwhile, avoids making Dominic a stock dimwit and instead steals scenes with his subtle mannerisms.
The cinematography by Ben Davis and music by Carter Burwell also stand out. The misty scenery of the seaside locations is beautiful, and Davis captures it with smoothness and grace. From the waves crashing to Siobhán’s red coats to the pub interiors, the frames pop with life throughout. Burwell’s score compliments the images and story with an array of bittersweet tunes.
A couple of minor things didn’t work for me in The Banshees of Inisherin. There’s a supporting character, a witch-like woman, who can foresee trouble. She ultimately feels more like a plot device than a real human. A key death scene in the film also feels brushed aside too quickly in favor of getting back to the main plot. Otherwise I have little to complain about with McDonagh’s film.
The Banshees of Inisherin is simple in concept but brilliant in execution. The dialogue, plot turns, and acting continually provide surprises. Both clever and poignant in a balanced way, it’s a movie where one minute I would be laughing out loud and another minute I would have a lump in my throat. One can only hope McDonagh, Farrell, and Gleeson re-team for a third time since their partnerships with In Bruges and The Banshees of Inisherin worked so well.
My Grade: 9/10 (letter grade equivalent: A)
Running Time: 1h 49min
The Banshees of Inisherin opened in limited theaters on October 21, 2022 and expanded on November 4, 2022.