Pádraic’s life on a remote island off the coast of Ireland has a distinct, unshakeable routine. And in a place as small as Inisherin, everyone knows everyone’s routine. So when Pádraic shows up to the pub at 2pm like he does every day – only without his friend Colm – even the guys at the pub have questions. Where’s Colm? Are they in a fight?

In The Banshees of Inisherin, Pádraic (Colin Farrell) is devastated when his buddy Colm (Brendan Gleeson) suddenly puts an end to their lifelong friendship. With help from his sister Siobhan (Kerry Condon) and troubled young islander Dominic (Barry Keoghan), Pádraic sets out to repair the damaged relationship by any means necessary. However, as Colm’s resolve only strengthens, he soon delivers an ultimatum that leads to shocking consequences.

Banshees opens with Pádraic’s darkly funny abandonment by his friend. He doesn’t know what the problem is, as he keeps telling everyone who asks. Are they in a fight? No, he doesn’t think so. He would know if they were. Right? Eventually he manages to confront the man himself; Colm’s reply is straightforward and devastatingly simple: “I just don’t like you anymore.”

And I mean, how is anyone supposed to respond to that?

Colm (Brendan Gleeson) sits inside his home as Padraic (Colin Farrell) looks in through the window

If you’re Pádraic, you kind of refuse to let that sink in, and keep pursuing the companionship of a man who insists he wants to leave you behind. Farrell plays Pádraic with the energy of a kicked puppy. You can’t help but feel for him and the strange, life-altering situation he’s suddenly found himself in.

At the same time, Colm isn’t just a complete jerk you hate. He’s clearly suffering in his own way. And in fairness, his criticisms of Pádraic – that he’s dull, and keeps Colm from doing something more significant with his life – have enough truth to mean you can’t entirely fault him for trying to end their relationship. (Even if the approach is pretty blunt and tactless.)

As Pádraic increasingly pesters his former best friend, Colm gives him an ominous ultimatum: leave me alone, or I’ll cut my own fingers off, one by one.

Suffice to say, it is not an empty threat.

The Banshees of Inisherin is simultaneously comedic and tragic. Everyone on the island is searching for something to give their life meaning and purpose. As Colm leans into his music, Pádraic chases his friendship. Dominic reaches for love – platonic and romantic – as Siobhan tries to tie her existence to something other than the island farmhouse she’s inherited. All the while, the Irish civil war rages on in the background on the mainland.

(L to R) Colin Farrell as Padraic and Barry Keoghan as Dominic

The performances in Banshees are stellar. I really felt for each of these characters, even as their individual struggles and pursuits put them at odds with one another. The movie also has a beautiful and haunting score. (I think it may actually be Gleeson playing the violin in the film; if it isn’t, he’s done a remarkable job pretending to play.) 

It’s undoubtedly funny, in a dark way, but the further the film progresses, the more you realize it’s also inescapably a tragedy. Can anyone get what they truly want out of life? 

And if we get what we want, does it even matter?

The Banshees of Inisherin is now in theaters.

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