Arts, Movies

‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ Delivers a Tragicomedy on Male Friendship and Breakups


Romantic breakups are commonplace in cinematic storytelling, but breakups between friends show up in films less frequently.

The Banshees of Inisherin, a dialogue-heavy folk tale of two lifelong friends breaking up, invites viewers to ponder human sanity and how people deal with loss and heartbreak after experiencing breakups. 

The film, directed by Martin McDonagh, takes place in 1923 on the fictional isle of Inisherin in Ireland, where Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) tries to figure out why his best friend, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson), suddenly decides to end their longtime friendship.

The film brings Farrell and Gleeson back together 14 years after their performance in McDonagh’s movie In Bruges. 

The synergy established between Farrell and Gleeson in their past work poses a striking contrast with the strained dynamic that appears between them in The Banshees of Inisherin. Colm’s cynicism collides with Pádraic’s attempt to make Colm speak to him like usual despite their strained friendship, creating a strangely compelling tension. 

Farrell’s acting perfectly captures the bewilderment and awkwardness that can come from losing a best friend. His droopy eyebrows are expressive, allowing the audience to empathize with his feeling of grief and loneliness.

Paradoxically, the setting of a small, idyllic Irish isle filled with vast land and livestock does not seem to soothe the conflict between the two friends, but rather creates an air of melancholy and depression that runs throughout the whole movie. 

The isle acts as a labyrinth that traps Pádraic and Colm. While both men are isolated from the outer world, Pádraic’s desperate craving to find the meaning of life and fix his friendship, and Colm’s pursuit of his interest in music seem to be more urgent than ever. 

McDonagh—who started his career as a playwright—showcases his foundation in script writing throughout the film. The film’s well-scripted dialogue reflects Pádraic’s and Colm’s disposition and may prompt both amusement and contemplation from some audience members.

Trivial conversations between local residents pop in at just the right moments to provide comedic breaks in the film. It is easy to burst into laughter and wince at the same time when listening to the dialogue filled with Irish slang and hilarious intonation. 

One of the more amusing parts of the film is when Colm reveals why he ended the friendship: He just doesn’t like Pádraic anymore. This simple response may baffle audience members as to why an old man would sever his lifelong friendship so indifferently and easily.

The Banshees of Inisherin’s screenplay is an outstanding portrayal of a broken friendship built upon humor and sorrow, but a number of plot points are left unresolved. The film does not provide a clear indication of where the future of Colm and Pádraic’s relationship is headed. McDonagh instead guides viewers to ponder a different question: When feeling lost and alone, where can people turn to in order to find direction in life?

November 30, 2022