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Thursday 5 January 2023

Burl reviews The Banshees of Inisherin! (2022)


With a touch o’ the shamrock, it’s Burl, here to tell of a tale from the Emerald Isle, or at least with one of the associated islets! Much like The Secret of Roan Inish, the action in today’s picture takes place exclusively on a small island off the coast of Ireland at some time in the earlier part of the 20th century, although in this case, while the title promises some Irish myth, ha ha, there’s nothing supernatural to be found in the picture itself! The movie is called The Banshees of Inisherin!

In fact it takes place at a very specific time: the spring of 1923; so, now that we’re in a new year we can say it takes place a hundred years ago, back when life was different! Although not that different, because on this picturesque fisherfolks’ paradise there is no shortage of anachronistic lines of dialogue and behaviours! Ha ha! Anyway, the story is so: Pádraic Súilleabháin, an amiable want-wit played by Colin Farrell, whom we recall from his role as the vampire in the newer Fright Night, has a routine: call ‘pon his pal Colm Doherty at two o’ the clock of an afternoon, then proceed to the public house for ales and inane conversation! Except on this day, Colm doesn’t answer his door, and reveals later that he’s simply decided not to like Pádraic any more!

Brendan Gleeson, familiar from Cruise-capades like Edge of Tomorrow and Mission Impossible II, plays Colm, and he’s a much sharper tack than his ex-pal Pádraic, and as cultured as a person can get on a provincial island in the 1920s! So when he explains that he’s given up the friendship because he feels his creative life being stolen from him an hour of pointless chit-chat at a time, one can sympathize and understand! But the extremity of the edict, not to mention the later consequences, make Colm seem a bit crazy! Couldn’t he have simply laid down some ground rules that limit the time he spends with Pádraic rather than cutting it off entirely? The all-or-nothing gambit is in keeping with the Irish character, I suppose, and I guess that’s the point!

Other characters are as confused about it as poor dopey Pádraic! The latter lives with his sister Siobhán, played by Kerry Condon, and she’s a no-nonsense type who advocates to Colm on her brother’s behalf, but can’t really contradict his assertion that Pádraic is a time-wasting nonsense-talker! A twitchy village idiot called Dominic, played in a showy performance by Barry Keoghan from Dunkirk, wonders sarcastically at Colm’s maturity! (“What is he, twelve?” is one of the many lines that seem more 21st century than of the Joycean era they’re meant to evoke!) And an old witchy lady played by Shelia Flitton, who I believe played a similar role in The Northman, watches the goings on with a knowing cackle!


Things start to get a little gruesome once a fed-up Colm, a devoted fiddler, threatens to cut off his fingers if Padráic keeps up with his botheration! Ha ha, I guess he settles on his fingers because cutting off his nose would be too obvious! And not to spoil anything, but yes, in the parlance of Joe Bob Briggs, fingers do roll! A lovable mini-donkey ambles through the margins of the story, and it’s this creature who precipitates the film’s final act! Things get pretty dark, but the finale may leave you pondering!

There’s lots to recommend this picture: the acting and the photography, for instance, are both top-notch, and the script is often very funny! The themes, while somewhat obvious (the Irish Civil War, a battle between former friends, is going on in the background over on the mainland), are interesting – it’s as an exploration of friendship and its liminalities that the picture is most compelling, rather than as a political allegory! And it’s always worthwhile to see what’s happening on these crazy Anglo-Saxon islets – ha ha, think about The Wicker Man, or Doomwatch, or I Know Where I’m Going, or Island of Terror, or Nothing But the Night! Kooky places, those islands, and Inishiren fits right in with them! I give The Banshees of Inisherin two and a half finger splotches!


  1. Finally got around to watching this and... I'm living on the west coast of Ireland so maybe some of the charm didn't work on me. I found it pleasant and interesting but not nearly as involving as I was expecting. One thing I did like though were the occasional moments of tenderness and the believable scenes of loneliness and rejection. By the way, was pleased to see you returning to reviewing after a dry February. It's always a pleasure to read your musings and our tastes align more often than not. Keep up the sterling work and a happy March to you!

    1. A happy March to you too, and many thanks for your kind note! I can certainly see how the movie would be less impressive to someone for whom the setting lacks any exoticism! I enjoyed but didn't love the movie myself, as you can see from the review - the craft is impeccable, but the movie is, as you say, not as involving as one might like! Anyway, I will endeavour to keep reviewing on as regular a basis as possible, and thanks again for the comment!