The Banshees of Inisherin follows two lifelong friends, Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) after the latter decides to end the friendship for seemingly no reason at all. The film marks the reunion of director Martin McDonagh with Farrell and Gleeson 14 years after the release of In Bruges, channelling a similar blend of humour and darkness while substituting the depiction of morally reprehensible characters from the start for the creation of empathy and meaningful character studies. It explores the importance of human connection, capturing the anguish and devastating effects that occur when it is suddenly lost.
McDonagh draws you into the film from the get-go, establishing an empathetic and relatable premise, losing a friend with no explanation. It is portrayed as a sudden, unexpected change in behaviour, with none of the characters being able to grasp the reasons of the separation. This sudden severing of connection creates the conditions for the masterful exploration of isolation in depth. Human connection is something so fundamental to our lives; losing it without any warning or expectation can have unknowable consequences. The impact of Banshees is felt through the powerful way it drives home the necessity of friendship and connection as a fundamental piece of humanity, as Pádraic’s desperate, and at times harmful, attempts to reconcile fail.
The Banshees of Inisherin is stylistically exceptional, establishing an incredibly well-shot backdrop to the narrative that captures the beauty of a small island. The visuals create an atmosphere of complete isolation with settings that are nothing but miles of empty space. This elevates the importance of human connection as a theme, as there is often nothing else on Inisherin but the broken friendship, no escape from the consequences. Combined with McDonagh’s meditative pacing that emphasises lingering emotion and reflection, it stands out as technically crafted in a moving and striking way even before the narrative is considered. Banshees, while being a dark comedy and excelling in these elements, takes an empathetic route in exploring the main friendship. It understands the fundamental desire to care for others and what it means to fight for a connection with a friend who is resistant. The story resonated with me from the very first moments due to this focus being on empathy instead of ridicule—it enables the audience, who may have had similar experiences at some point in their lives, to see it evolve in a way that recognises the hurt that losing a connection can cause.
There is also a refreshing acceptance of male friendship in the central themes. Media often views intimate and meaningful connections between men as a form of comic relief, belittled in some way as not masculine enough. However, McDonagh embraces the importance of this friendship and treats it with empathy, despite the darkly comedic tone that could have instead mocked Pádraic for his endless desire for reconciliation. McDonaugh’s initial leanings into black comedy reflect the nervous uncertainty of newfound isolation, while the more melancholy tone as the film progresses allows more ntrospection regarding the existential horror of being suddenly alone in the world.
Both lead actors shine in their roles, portraying characters with layers of depth behind every decision they make. [LL5] The small-scale approach exemplifies this, as the friendship and its breakdown is The Banshees of Inisherin; every action and decision taken is centred around this sole premise. Raw and emotional depictions of the darkness and pain of failed reconciliation, as well as the devastating effect that it can have on someone who was otherwise happy, create a lingering and overwhelming emotional backdrop. Farrell is the highlight, portraying the range of emotions and conditions stemming from the loss of connection in a way that creates empathy that resonates deeply with the audience as a result of his newfound isolation.
McDonagh doesn’t hesitate to depict the darkest moments of isolation’s fundamental loneliness, allowing a strong portrayal of a layered response to emptiness. Gleeson’s performance as Colm demonstrates the limits that this depression can force someone into and the anguish caused from the loss of human connection, with the film using a literal depiction of pain to portray the emotional pain that real friendship breakdowns undergo. The idea of indirectly hurting someone you care about is a common fear, and Banshees is at its most melancholy when it acknowledges this. The shocking depictions of violence create a strong emotional connection to Pádraic, as he is haunted by the cost of his desperation to help a friend. I felt the strength of the portrayal of depression and pain as all-consuming throughout the film, haunted by the lingering feelings for days to come.
The Banshees of Inisherin succeeds in making its premise engaging and layered through its tone, style and most importantly a range of themes that are empathetic in nature. The incredible exploration of these concepts in a way that challenges typical views of friendship and feuds by blurring darker ideas into the narrative is the heart of McDonagh’s heartfelt masterpiece. Banshees is empathy, even at someone’s darkest moments, that leaves a lasting impact on audiences.
Edited by Lydia Leung, Film & TV Head Editor