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The Banshees of Inisherin 

Written and directed by Martin McDonagh 

Review by Danielle Papamichael 


Martin McDonagh’s tragicomedy The Banshees of Inisherin is a masterpiece in capturing the complexities of a breakup. By focusing on the turbulence of male friendship, which often relies more on companionship than deep emotional connection, McDonagh has been able to show theatrically what happens when one stops finding the other fulfilling. 

Fourteen years after his much admired feature debut, In Bruges, McDonagh brings Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson together again with another ‘chalk and cheese’ bromance between two new characters. Although similar traits can be found  between characters in the two films, The Banshees of Inisherin, full of McDonagh’s signature wryly wit, existential dread and outstanding dialogue, confidently replaces the shoot-out scenes of In Bruges with vast wide-shots of Inisherin’s beautifully intimidating coast. 

Inisherin, a fictional island (scenes are filmed on Inishmore and Achill Island in western Ireland) is tiny, claustrophobic and remote. Set in 1923 during the Irish Civil War, the simple story follows the sudden breakup of lifelong friends Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson). Pádraic is a happy-go-lucky cow farmer – a nice, simple man who is more than content with looking after his few animals (especially Jenny, his miniature donkey) and getting merry at the pub. Colm however, is a gifted fiddle player, who can be described as more of a thinker. A generation older than Pádraic, he’s convinced that he will die in the next 12 years. Full of despair, wasted time and nothing to show for himself, he’s now determined to spend the limited years he has left on his musical pursuits and nothing else. 

Stunned, Pádraic refuses to accept Colm’s sudden change of heart even after Colm bluntly tells him ‘I just don’t like ya no more.’ We watch empathetically as Pádraic moves through a vast range of universal emotions post-dumping: sadness, confusion, denial, determination to get them back and of course anger. Farrell plays Pádraic with such vulnerability and innocence, it’s difficult to watch him go through this hardship. 

Colm is serious and in the most egotistical and unreasonable way, he threatens to mutilate his fiddle-playing hand to stop Pádraic’s persistence. This only causes things to escalate further and the results are disastrous. 

Pádraic is aided by his intelligent, fiery sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), who is protective of her brother as she knows he’s not the sharpest. She’s assisted in her endeavours by the troubled yet surprisingly wise young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan). Although both characters try to help Pádraic snap out of his sadness, they’re also suffering too. 

McDonagh has proven yet again that he can fluently and authentically dance the fine line between dark tragedy and comedy. Complex feelings – loneliness, rejection, purpose and heartbreak – are balanced perfectly with dry wit and perfect timing. 

The Banshees of Inisherin is timeless and captivating, using the breakup of a lifelong friendship as a cleverly crafted metaphor for the Irish Civil War. One moment you’re laughing and the next you want to cry; it’s relatable yet profound. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s performances are exceptional and, of course, their chemistry is unmatched.