Sometimes a film lives in your brain rent-free. It always blows my mind as a critic when after a movie simmers for a bit, my feelings about it drastically change. As I left the theater after screening The Banshees of Inisherin, I didn’t have words. Yet, after percolating on the movie for a while, images took shape. Details took form. It turned out this work was residing in my head rent-free and I didn’t even know it.  

The Banshees of Inisherin follows Pádraic (Colin Farrell) a man living his best life on Inisherin, a small Irish island. He has his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon), his farm and most delightful of all, his mini-donkey. One day, however, his best friend Colm (Brendan Gleeson) wakes up and decides he doesn’t like Pádraic anymore. No reason. He just doesn’t want to be friends. 

Brendan Gleeson watches Colin Farrell from afar in The Banshees of Inisherin.

This seemingly simple happenstance leads to an explosion of simmering quiet tension between the two men as each attempts to work through their changing social dynamic. Barry Keoghan, Gary Lydon and Pat Shortt co-star in the movie. Martin McDonagh directs The Banshees of Inisherin from his own script. 

Related: Movie Review: My Policeman

In The Banshees of Inisherin, McDonagh captures lightning in a bottle. The writer/director does something of which most creators can only dream. Working in close conjunction with Gleeson and Farrell (the three last partnered for 2008’s In Bruges) his vision comes faithfully alive on screen.

Few actors seem quite as tailor-made for a writer-director as Farrell and Gleeson are for McDonagh. The Banshees of Inisherin is quiet, but at the same time, it’s effortless in its crafting.

Kerry Condon contemplates life in The Banshees of Inisherin.

This fact is even more impressive when considering the movie’s decidedly complex tone. In his beautifully intricate script, McDonagh walks a tightrope separating comedy and pit-of-your-stomach tragedy delightfully. 

Related: Movie Review: See How They Run

With that, The Banshees of Inisherin is not an easy sit. There’s a tremendous sadness that hangs in the air at the root of this simple story. Despite being a period piece set in 1920s Ireland, at its core, this narrative is deeply relatable. Throughout our lives, most of us have been both Pádraic and Colm. Friendships end, mistakes are made and while it might not always feel like it, life goes on.

This understated tragedy builds into a third act that hits the screen like a messy ball of emotion in a usually restrained movie. A lot happens… all of it spoiler-y… yet it never feels isolated or out of touch from the rest of the story. 

Barry Keoghan takes a break in The Banshees of Inisherin.

There’s an innate tragedy in this narrative looking at just how dysfunctional we human beings can be. There’s not always a reason behind our behavior and we are at our core creatures of instinct. 

At the same time, the actors thrive in this story. The two leads give beautifully well-rounded performances. Farrell in particular shines in his role. He tugs at the heartstrings as he struggles to figure out what he might have done. Pádraic’s layers and depth come through beautifully. This is a career-best for the veteran Farrell. 

In the excitement to talk about the two leads, so many are looking passed another gem of a performance. Barry Keoghan shines a role that while very much a supporting part is still very much the heart of this narrative.

Brendan Gleeson plays the fiddle in The Banshees of Inisherin.

In the over-arching theme of examining what isn’t said in relationships, Keoghan gives a brilliantly crafted performance as Dominic, Pádraic’s friend and the young son of the town constable.

RELATED: Movie Review: Catherine Called Birdy

Early on, Keoghan settles nicely into his likable role carrying much of the film’s comedic moments. However, as the story develops the young actor hits his stride. His struggles come to the screen in beautifully unsaid ways. The pangs of love he fights with, the pain, and the abuse. There’s so much simmering under the surface in this heartwrenching performance. Keoghan lets the audience into every facet of this young man’s existence through the power in his work alone. 

Last but certainly not least, this review would be shirking its duty if it didn’t mention how McDonagh’s film is quite literally a work of art. Working with cinematographer Ben Davis, McDonagh brings this small Irish village to life in truly picturesque ways. 

Barry Keoghan chats with Kerry Condon in The Banshees of Inisherin.

This is of course most visible in the majestic use of landscape within the film. Each and every frame could double as a painting. There’s real love for this location and it’s easy to see why its characters (particularly Pádraic) feel so at home here. 

RELATED: Movie Review: Don’t Worry Darling

At the same time though, the creative team’s use of this gorgeous setting also serves to highlight the inherent desolation. This location is sweeping and green, leaving our characters largely alone in this big and wide world. 

So as these relationships begin to fracture and burst, the character’s loneliness becomes that much more palpable. Life isn’t as dull if you can escape to the pub for a laugh with your buddies. However, when that is removed the desolation in the environment is heightened. The silences are longer. They’re harsher. In this, the landscape becomes another character. It becomes another obstacle our characters must butt their heads up against. 

Martin McDonagh’s new movie, The Banshees of Inisherin hits theaters this week and like the director’s other works, he’s not afraid to make audiences squirm. This is an adult, sophisticated script that effortlessly takes viewers between drastically conflicting emotions. In that, it’s not an easy sit. However, this cinematic work of art is packed with beautiful camera work and equally stunning performances. It makes you think, it makes you feel… it makes you feel a lot.

Fans of this talented cast and crew as well as film fans alike should make time for this one. 

The Banshees of Inisherin is now playing in select theaters around the country. 

Check out our other movie reviews here.

HOUSE OF THE DRAGON: 10 Predictions for Season 2

Kimberly Pierce
Follow Me
Latest posts by Kimberly Pierce (see all)