“The Banshees of Inisherin” review: The tragedy of moving on

Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Over Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to watch “The Banshees of Inisherin.” It managed to keep me on the edge of my seat for the entire 1 hour and 54 minute runtime.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” is about the feud between two friends, Pádraic and Colm, which increasingly worsens over the course of the film. It starts in a humorous tone, but slowly transitions to a more sinister mood. Every scene fluidly unfolds into the next, leaving you gripping the arms of your seat — at least I did.

The film functions as a parable about the Irish Civil War, which was a short, but bloody conflict that left a lasting impact on the country. The war arose through disagreements on independence, which is similar to the conflict occurring during “The Banshees of Inisherin.”

In this movie, Colm wants to secede from the friendship to pursue peace, continue creating his art and focus on the violin, while Pádraic wants to continue their relationship, much to the chagrin of the other friend.

Since it’s a parable, the whole film has allegories littered within it. One of the more obvious symbols is the old mysterious robed woman that keeps popping up. She seems to creep in the background most of the time, but is always there watching the other characters descend further into their destruction. She appears to mark moments of death like a grim reaper — or, as the movie title says, a “banshee,” a female spirit that heralds death.

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Plot points like this allow the story to have an almost mythical quality which is further accentuated by the setting. The story takes place on a small island off the coast of Ireland. The cinematography allows the island to become a character in itself. It holds for longer shots that capture parts of the landscape like jarring cliffs, foggy exteriors and scarcely light interiors. These aspects give our location a life in and of itself.

The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson who have previously worked together in the movie “In Bruges.” Their chemistry is palpable and in the film’s more heartening moments, you can feel the sentiments and unsaid emotions between the two.

Other than the historical aspect, it also feels like a growing up story. Other characters — like Pádraic’s sister who wants to leave the island and his new friend who has a hard time growing up — struggle with letting go and moving on. It’s a story relatable to welcoming new stages of our lives where we must let go of people we once knew and say goodbye without clinging on to our past, ultimately leading to our destruction.