Movie Review: ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’

John Thomas

Inisherin is a quiet peaceful (fictional) island with only an occasional interruption when sounds of canon fire are heard across the water from a civil war raging on mainland Ireland. The islanders go about their daily business – and the business of their neighbors – leading peaceful predictable lives.

Their two main sources of information for news and gossip are the village dry goods store/post office and the pub. Here customers enjoy afternoon pints and share latest developments on the island.

Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) and his life long friend Padraic Sulleabham (Colin Farrell), enjoy each other’s company on a daily basis.

It comes as a shock to their routine one afternoon when Colm tells Padraic, “Don’t talk to me anymore. I don’t like ye no more.” This proclamation not only puzzles Padraic but those sitting around them.

Colm tries to explain that he is interested in finishing a musical composition he’s been working on and doesn’t want to be distracted by Padraic’s dull conversations. He wants to spend his remaining days creating something that will out live him – music for others to enjoy after he’s gone. Padraic doesn’t understand.

Colm tries to explain to Padraic’s sister Siobhan (Kerry Concon) how dull her brother’s company is. She only replies, “He’s always been dull.”

Frustrated by Colm’s decree, Padraic confronts him again. This time he’s told that in the 17th century no one remembers ordinary people – only famous ones like Mozart. Colm wants to create something for which he’ll be remembered – the composition he’s trying to finish. Padraic doesn’t know who Mozart is.

Frustration and irritation between the two former friends escalates with other villagers becoming more concerned over this situation as well.

Perhaps the person most concerned by this rift between the two men is Dominic Kearney (Barry Keognan), the troubled son of the local policeman. He likes both men and the friendship they’ve enjoyed over the years – he’s incapable of understanding the problem or figuring out a solution.

He’s present at the pub one afternoon when a drunken Padraic rages against Colm – a scene everyone present is shocked by. Colm has reached his limit and gives Padraic an ultimatum. “Every time you bother me or attempt to speak to me, I will take my sheep shears and cut off one of me own left fingers.”

Adding to the worsening tensions in the village is the warning told to Padraic by a village elder: “Death will come to the island soon.”

Frustrated by Dominic’s romantic overtures, the escalating tensions between her brother and Colm and the unrest and gossip in the village, Siobhan decides to accept a job offer on the mainland. The now more troubled Padraic seeks comfort and consolation from his (past) friend Colm – to no avail.

Returning home to say farewell to his sister, they hear a thud on their front door. Opening the door Padraic sees a bloody smear on it. Looking down he sees the source of the blood.

Directed by Martin McDonagh (Credits: In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), “The Banshees of Inisherin” runs 109 minutes and is a “should see” for the beautiful scenery, unusual story and fine acting. Winner of two awards at the 79th Venice Film Festival, September 2022.



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