‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a fascinating, albeit plain, slow-burn

By Samuel M Acosta

When I originally saw the trailer for this film, it looked right up my alley. A low-budget, small cast, indie movie that just breathes raw humanity. Upon watching the film, those criteria were met, and while I enjoy many of the concepts presented by the film, I don’t feel like the slow burn pays off in a satisfying way. I am left wanting something just a little bit more.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” follows Padraic, played by Colin Ferrel, a man living on the small island of Inisheren off the coast of Ireland during the Irish Civil War. He seems to be living an average life until he goes to have a drink at the pub with his best friend Colm, played by Brendan Gleeson, who seemingly ignores him. Upon pushing for more information, Colm eventually tells Padraic that he simply doesn’t like him anymore and doesn’t want to be friends. Disturbed by this, Padraic goes home to his sister Siobhan, played by Kerry Condon, who worries for her brother. The next day brings more of the same situation, but Colm then threatens that if Padraic bothers him more, he will begin cutting off his own fingers. This leads to a series of odd and cerebral interactions as both men wrestle with who they are and what they want. 

This film is very slow and very odd. It feels like a glimpse into someone’s mundane life rather than an epic story. While that kind of storytelling has a charm, this iteration feels like it is missing a little meat on its bones. I am fascinated with the ideas and concepts that this film begins to present but I feel like I was still waiting to see them come to fruition as the credits rolled. 

Colin Ferrel and Brendan Gleeson show incredible skill and chemistry in their roles

There is still a lot to love about this film, starting with absolutely wonderful performances by Colin Ferrel and Brendan Gleeson. The pair has incredible chemistry with each other and create a strong dynamic that was very enjoyable to watch. The sense of genuine sincerity in their characters’ struggles is easily the best part of the film, rivaled only by the setting. 

This film’s setting is absolutely gorgeous, in every sense of the word. Visually, the locations are stunning, providing beautiful landscapes. I love the outdoor scenes that overlooked the ocean, as I often found myself just admiring the environment. The Irish culture which is instilled within the film is also incredibly charming. The vernacular and the interactions between the people living on the island feel authentic. 

Padraic’s inner struggle with the fear of being dull is a highly relatable element of the film

A concept that the film presents that I find to be incredibly powerful is Padraic’s struggle with questioning how interesting he is. After Colm says that Padraic is too dull, he wrestles with himself for the rest of the film. There is no profound answer or resolution to that prompting, but I find this to be very real and relatable. The idea of people not liking you because you are dull is a fear that I believe is universal in all people. We are scared of being boring and even more scared that this will stop others from wanting to be close to us. So seeing that struggle, even in the exaggerated form that it is presented, is something that I find to be very compelling. I just wish that there is a little more closure on the subject, allowing for the ending to feel a bit tidier and less open-ended. But then again, maybe that’s the very point. 

The film also does a good job of presenting Colm’s perspective as well, with his fear that he has done nothing with his life and will die without having accomplished anything. He begins to compose a song, which he titles “The Banshees of Inishiren,” that he hopes will be the beginning of what he leaves behind. This motivates him to stop his friendship with Padraic, as he feels like idle chatting with his old friend will leave him with nothing to leave behind. This is another struggle that I feel is highly relatable, as we all want something to be left behind so we are not forgotten when we die. 

This film does a great job of presenting concepts that are incredibly human feelings. While I enjoy them and the film, there is a lot missing and those great concepts feel a bit undercooked in the long run. 

I give “The Banshees of Inisherin” a 6/10

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is now playing in a theater near you or can be found streaming on HBO Max

Samuel M Acosta is a Senior Theatre Comprehensive Major and an Arts and Entertainment writer for Cedars. He likes spending his time watching movies, drinking Dr. Pepper and writing plays.

Images courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

2 Replies to "‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a fascinating, albeit plain, slow-burn"

  • comment-avatar
    Phyllis Foster August 18, 2023 (11:37 am)

    I loved this unforgettable film, and I strongly disagree that the “concepts that are incredibly human feelings…feel a bit undercooked in the long run.” Indeed, it’s the exquisite subtlety of these human emotions that gives this movie its power. Heavier treatment of the emotional tension of this film or the forcing in of “a lot missing” would surely have destroyed the very aspect of “The Banshees of Inisherin” that made it so relatable to viewers. With the endless stream of painfully mediocre movies these days, this one was a surprising delight and one of the best to come around in years. I give it a solid 10/10.

  • comment-avatar
    Cynthia January 15, 2024 (2:52 pm)

    I agree with the 6/10. It’s a bit of an eye roll but I’m not Irish so I probably didn’t connect to it as well as some.

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