Movie Review: The Banshees of Inisherin

The 2023 Oscar nominations are still over a month away, but Award Season is officially in full swing. Many of the year’s big “prestige” movies have been released (or at least given limited qualifying runs) and a picture is beginning to emerge about who the most likely front runners will be. One of them is the latest from writer / director Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin. Those familiar with his previous work like Best Picture nominee Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Best Original Screenplay nominee In Bruges will have a pretty good idea of what to expect from this one and will not be disappointed, but it should go over pretty well with just about everyone else too.

In 1923, as the Irish Civil War is winding down on the mainland, the residents of the island of Inisherin are going about their lives as usual. Farmer Pádraic (Colin Farrell) stops by his friend Colm’s (Brendan Gleeson) house on the way to the local pub so that they might walk over together only to find his presence completely ignored. This naturally confuses and concerns Pádraic and so he attempts to get to the bottom of it, only to be informed that Colm finds him to be dull and no longer wishes to be friends, even threatening that he will cut off one his fingers every time Pádraic attempts to speak to him. Pádraic’s sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) and troubled neighbor Dominic (Barry Keoghan) both do their best to deescalate the situation, but Pádraic’s unwillingness to accept the sudden and inexplicable loss of his supposed best friend combined with Colm’s intractability on the matter make that an impossible task.

Every aspect of this movie is flawlessly executed. The entire cast puts in excellent work, fully selling their roles and the barbed lines they frequently hurl at each other. The script deftly mixes the comedy with real emotion and isn’t afraid to shy away from taking on dark subject matter, with all involved adroitly handling the tonal shifts, making them feel completely natural. While the sweeping vistas and Carter Burwell’s Irish-folk influenced score make the fictional island look charming, the story really zeroes in on the dark sides of living in such a small, relatively isolated community, the cost of repressing one’s emotions, and the pointlessness of fighting. It’s rare that a movie as downbeat as this can also feel like a joy to watch, but The Banshees of Inisherin pulls off that balancing act perfectly. ★★★★★

rated r for language throughout, some violent content, and brief graphic nudity.

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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