The Banshees of Inisherin movie review (2022) | Roger Ebert (2024)

One thing I didn’t have on my lifetime cinematic bingo card—and I bet it is not on yours either—was Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson become the 21st century’s answer to Laurel and Hardy. And yet. With 2008’s “In Bruges,” and now “The Banshees of Inisherin,” the Irish actors, under the writing and directing aegis of frequently pleasantly perverse Martin McDonagh, display a chemistry and virtuosic interplay that recalls nothing so much as the maestros of the early 20th-century Comedy of Exasperation.


This being a McDonagh work, it’s a comedy of mortification as well as exasperation. It begins with a beautiful overhead shot of the title Irish island, all green below a clear blue sky (in this picture it only rains at night, which, considering actual weather patterns in Ireland, places the film in yet another genre, that of fantasy). The Carter Burwell score evokes idyllic times, and we see life is rather easy for Pádraic (Farrell) a milk farmer who lives with his sister in a modest cottage and, apparently, calls on his old friend Colm (Gleeson) just about every day at two. Before he sets out, he makes a remark about Colm to his sister Siobhán(Kerry Condon), who sarcastically replies, “Maybe he just don’t like you no more.”

This turns out to be a bit of inadvertent prophecy. Because Colm rebuffs Pádraic. Over the course of several discussions, we learn that Colm has come to find Pádraic dull (and the earnest fellow’s conversation is indeed limited, if amiable), and that he believes he’s got better things to do with his time, like compose songs on his fiddle. When Colm goes to confession at the island’s church, he reveals he’s also suffering from despair. He’s suffering from quite a bit more than that.

“Banshees” is set in 1923, and several times its characters discuss hearing guns going off on the not-too-far-away mainland. The conflict between Colm and Pádraic serves as a handy metaphor for Ireland’s Civil War at that time, but the movie works best when it doesn’t foreground that metaphor. Which becomes rather grisly, as a commentary on a particularly Irish kind of obstreperousness. As in: Colm tells Pádraic that if the latter continues to talk to Colm, or at Colm, after Colm’s made it clear that the doesn’t want Pádraic’s company or conversation, Colm will cut off one of his fingers. Now keep in mind that Colm’s a fiddler who wants to continue fiddling, so this is actually, as a strategy, a sight worse than cutting off one’s nose to spite his face.

And so, after Pádraic gets in Colm’s face again, Colm actually does it. One of the neatest tricks of the movie is how McDonagh leads the viewer to identify more with Colm than with Pádraic early on. One feels: yeah, this is a rude severing of friendship on Colm’s part, but why can’t Pádraic just let the guy be? Some of Colm’s points are well taken. Colm’s probably better for Pádraic than Dominic, the exceedingly rude policeman’s son who makes Pádraic look like an urbane conversationalist, but sometimes these are the breaks, social-life wise. But once the fingers begin coming off, your jaw slackens and your eyes pop. Where’s this going to end?


Nobody does self-loathing like the Irish, and with this film, McDonagh is on much surer footing than he was when trying to tell America a thing or two with his film “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in 2017. “Banshees” has got touches of tenderness that are sometimes ever-so-slightly confounding, as when Colm shows care for Pádraic after the latter gets a pasting from Dominic’s bastard cop father. Being the writer he is, he often counters those with bracing reality checks. And as a director, he orchestrates the give-and-take between Farrell and Gleeson with the mastery of someone who appreciates these performers as much as discerning audiences do. They let it fly; Farrell does some of his best acting with his furrowed eyebrows; Gleeson has a glare that’s both a death-ray and an enigma. The pauses these guys enact are at times even funnier than the verbal comebacks McDonagh has come up with for them. And as it happens, Barry Keoghan as Dominic almost steals the movie out from under the leads, his very funny vulgar brashness never quite camouflaging his character’s poignant vulnerability. Very good show all around.

This review was filed from the world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 5th. It opens only in theaters on October 21st.

Film Credits

The Banshees of Inisherin movie review (2022) | Roger Ebert (2)

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

Rated Rfor language throughout, some violent content and brief graphic nudity.

109 minutes


Colin Farrellas Pádraic

Brendan Gleesonas Colm

Kerry Condonas Siobhán

Barry Keoghanas Dominic


  • Martin McDonagh


  • Martin McDonagh


  • Ben Davis


  • Mikkel E.G. Nielsen


  • Carter Burwell


The Banshees of Inisherin movie review (2022) | Roger Ebert (2024)


What is so good about banshees of Inisherin? ›

The acting and scenery are marvelous, as others have noted. The plot as a metaphor for the Irish Civil War and so on. The strange sudden "unfriending" and the bizarre twists and turns it takes as a commentary on human nature and isolation amid a tedious present and an uncertain future.

Is The Banshees of Inisherin gruesome? ›

The Banshees of Inisherin proves Pádraic right by not showcasing Colm's song. Instead, The Banshees of Inisherin focuses on Colm's gruesome acts of self-mutilation, with the character cutting off a finger every time Pádraic tries to talk to him.

Were Siskel and Ebert friends? ›

Film critics Siskel and Ebert couldn't stand each other. That's what made their show great. Gene Siskel, left, and Roger Ebert, photographed in Los Angeles in 1986, had a contentious relationship that made their TV shows about movie criticism major hits, as chronicled in Matt Singer's new book, “Opposable Thumbs.”

Why do the Irish hate The Banshees of Inisherin? ›

The Banshees of Inisherin portrays Irish people as 'moronic' and is 'extremely offensive', says complaint to film classification board. Oscar-nominated film The Banshees of Inisherin portrays Irish people as “moronic” and is “extremely offensive”, according to a complaint to the Irish Film Classification Office (IFCO).

Why is The Banshees of Inisherin disturbing? ›

Depression amongst men is discussed, and the film has some dark, disturbing scenes. This includes a man cutting off his fingers. A corpse is seen being lifted out of some water, and a character commits arson in an attempted murder plot.

What is the moral of The Banshees of Inisherin? ›

It's a deeply cynical story with an achingly human message, a meditation on the way we define ourselves through others. One cannot pin their failures on a friend, nor can they use a peer as proof of virtue. We are our own individuals and must recognize ourselves as such.

Is The Banshees of Inisherin hard to watch? ›

This film is very slow paced and has lots of language, but nothing anyone over the age of 8 would know. I found it pretty funny and times and serious at others. There is nothing bad in the movie apart from drinking, language, and some mild gore, but most kids are going to find this incredibly boring.

What does inisherin mean in Irish? ›

It is intended as an allegory for the Irish Civil War ('Inisherin' translates to 'Island Ireland'), which was in full rage at that time. Colin Farrell plays Pádraic Súilleabháin, a small farmer, and Brendan Gleeson plays Colm Doherty, a fiddle player who scores traditional Irish music.

How old was Ebert when he died? ›

On April 4, 2013, one of America's best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after battling cancer.

Can Roger Ebert talk? ›

When film critic Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw to cancer, he lost the ability to eat and speak. But he did not lose his voice.

What does Dominic represent in Banshees of Inisherin? ›

Barry Keoghan's portrayal of Dominic, a misunderstood and shunned character, is both tragic and pivotal to the story. Dominic's demise represents the death of innocence in the film, highlighting the choices made by the characters and the consequences they face.

What does the ending of The Banshees of Inisherin mean? ›

The ending of the film sees Pádraic and Colm's feud escalate to devastating consequences, with deaths and acts of self-mutilation occurring. The ending highlights the deep divide between Pádraic and Colm, and their inability to reconcile or find peace, ultimately leading to their own destruction.

Does Colm represent the IRA? ›

In one way, the growing animosity between Colm and Pádraic directly mirrors the Irish Civil War, where it can be argued that Pádraic represents the Free State forces and the self-sabotaging Colm is akin to the IRA.

What is banshees of Inisherin a metaphor for? ›

The Banshees of Inisherin poignantly depicts a tale of despair and friendship in which despair overpowers friendship mostly throughout the film and this despair stands as a metaphor for the collective angst of Irish people during the Irish War of Independence.

Did banshees of Inisherin win anything at the Oscars? ›

The film, which was written, directed and co-produced by Martin McDonagh, is one of only nine films in Oscar history to receive nine or more nominations and wind up with no wins at all. Six films did even worse than Banshees — four went 0-10, while two went 0-11.


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