Directed by: Martin McDonagh
Written by: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny
Released: December 26, 2022
Grade: A

The Banshees of Inisherin

Writer-director Martin McDonagh is upfront about where his stories are set.  His plays include The Beauty Queen of Leenane, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, and a Behanding in Spokane.  His films include In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and now, The Banshees of Inisherin.  McDonagh’s knack for interesting titles (complete with locations) is matched by his ability to create dark, twisting narratives and complex, intriguing characters.  He’s one of the best filmmakers working today.

The Banshees of Inisherin is set on a small Irish island in the year 1923.  The weather is cold, the terrain is rugged, and folks make ends meet by working the land.  It’s also the kind of place where everybody knows everybody.  They go about their day with a sense of routine, exchange pleasantries as they pass each other on the windy dirt roads and share an alcoholic beverage at the dimly-lit local pub of an afternoon.

One matter has become the talk of the town.  Two lifelong friends, Colm (Gleeson) and Pádraic (Farrell), have had a bizarre, unexpected falling out.  Colm, the instigator of the separation, says it has nothing to do with anything Pádraic did or said.  It’s simply because “I just don’t like you no more” and he then asks a confused Colm never to speak with him ever again.

What follows is a riveting drama that asks us to look deeply at these characters and form an opinion about them and their actions.  Who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong?  Is it that clear cut?  Should Colm be allowed to sever the friendship without a more reasonable explanation?  Is Pádraic out of line for continuing to pester Colm and those around him in search of justification?  To what extent are we entitled to our own privacy as opposed to having to consider the feelings of caring friends around us?

The film also has something to say about the way small disagreements can, through events outside of our control, escalate into things much bigger than anyone anticipated… or wanted.  Townsfolk start gossiping about the pair and, just like a game of Chinese whispers, it reaches the point where innocuous speculation and rumours morph into “facts”.  This only adds to the division between Colm and Pádraic and it threatens to disrupt other relationships with the community.

Every actor in this ensemble is at the top of their game.  Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are reunited for the first time since the terrific In Bruges (a must-see if you haven’t already) and, churning out the thickest Irish accents they can, play off each other like skilled musicians.  The conversations they share are both humorous and dramatic.  Kerry Condon (Better Call Saul) is sensational as Pádraic’s level-headed sister while Barry Keoghan (The Killing of a Sacred Deer) steals a bunch of scenes a dim-witted yet likeable young man. 

Going down unexpected paths and tapping into the spiritual, The Banshees of Inisherin is another winner from Martin McDonagh that will be a factor in the upcoming awards season.  One of the year’s best.