Review: ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a heartbreakingly relatable tale

Searchlight Pictures

Ben Churney, news correspondent

“The Banshees of Inisherin” delivers magnificent performances, breathtaking cinematography and a perfect balance between comedy and heart-wrenching moments.

Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) are close friends living simple and cyclical lives, but problems arise when Colm chooses to focus on creating music over his friendship with Pádraic. Colm feels that he’s wasting the few years that he has left by spending time with Pádraic, and he decides he wants to put his energy toward making music on his fiddle that will live on after he’s gone. Pádraic doesn’t buy into his friend’s plan until Colm delivers a harrowing proposition: every time Pádraic talks to him, he will chop off a finger. From here, the film dives into their relationship and explores the peculiar grief of friendship.

The film doesn’t take either side, leaving viewers torn but also engaged. Colm wants to focus on his music, and even though it’s heartbreaking for all parties involved, he tells Pádraic bluntly that he doesn’t want to be friends anymore. Pádraic is heartbroken by Colm’s decision, evoking the relatable torn feeling of a friend distancing themselves. With one compassionate scene after another, this story demands the viewer’s whole attention.

A perfect balance of comedic scenes and saddening material elevates the storyline. This film provides some of the best laughs of the year in cinema, yet it simultaneously cuts through the viewer and hits home so well. Whether it’s Dominic making hilarious comments about his surroundings or Pádraic making the audience hoot with laughter as he expresses his frustration to Colm, this film gave unique and worthwhile comedy for viewers. There is no shortage of weight and meaning behind this film, but it’s not a drag to watch. “The Banshees of Inisherin” boils down to a simple form — a fight between two friends — yet it’s also complex in the issues that it addresses. An emotional dark comedy is tough to pull off, as a film needs to bring out incredible laughs from viewers while also touching and breaking their hearts, but this film executes it to perfection.

Viewers are treated with terrific performances from the entire cast, as Farrell and Gleeson have flawless chemistry. Other memorable performances come from Kerry Condon as Padraic’s smarter sister, Siobhan, and from Pat Shortt as Jonjo Devine, a funny and memorable bartender. The standout performance came from Barry Keoghan in the role of Dominic Kearney, the son of an abusive police officer. Dominic is a friend of Pádraic and provides the audience with amazing comedic scenes. As the film progresses and the audience gets to know this character more, Dominic’s story adds tragic layers to him. Through Dominic, “Banshees” portrays a tragic reality for people with a penchant for making people laugh: that the comedy and joy they give others through jokes can also hide personal issues.

Another theme the film explores is the weight and effect that one person’s actions can have on everyone around them. There is of course the chain reaction that Colm sets off after he decides to cut Pádraic from his life, but the supporting characters around the odd pair also explore this theme. “Banshees” doesn’t call out any decision by these characters as inherently wrong, rather letting the viewer decide, making the film that much more true to life.

Cinematographer Ben Davis gives cinema lovers the best camera work of this year’s films, with wide-angle shots of the gorgeous Irish coast that is sure to take anyone’s breath away. Best experienced in theaters, viewers are engulfed into endless cliffs, beaches and plateaus that can make them feel like Inisherin is the only piece of land in the world.

“Banshees” portrays the isolationism of its namesake extremely well, and viewers immediately feel that they’re one of the few people inhabiting this tiny island. The film serves as a reinforcement that one’s own problems, however big or small, always matter and carry weight. The storyline itself is intriguing and creative, and the incredible camerawork is an essential addition that helps take the film from great to the best of the year. 

Films like “The Banshees of Inisherin” remind viewers why cinema is so special — they bring out a wide variety of emotions from the viewer while also providing a fantastic and entertaining watch. “Banshees” will certainly be in the running for next year’s Oscars, but more importantly, it is a deeply inspiring film that exemplifies the kind of lasting art that Colm so desperately wanted.