The Banshees of Inisherin: A Movie Review

James Lanternman
7 min readFeb 13
Credit: Searchlight Pictures

Martin McDonagh’s last movie was Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, released more than five years ago. It did great at the box office, won a sweep of awards, and was critically well received, so the gap between it and The Banshees of Inisherin seems surprising.

McDonagh is a director who hasn’t aimed for prolific output, though. He writes movies (as well as plays), and when it comes to making them he has previously taken a “we’ll see” approach. He has valued traveling and having fun as well as his career.

Word on the street (leaked through interviews in well-known publications) is he has started to feel “a tremendous sense of time slipping away” — in the words of Colm, one of the main characters of his new film. He intends to focus more on movies than stage plays, in part due to their lasting qualities — also a sentiment Colm identifies with.

Which is a way of saying, the script of Banshees has McDonagh’s soul written into parts of it. At least, in the two main characters at conflict with each another.

As for the gap between movies? He had a lot of success in his last outing, and took time to make the follow-up he wanted. Good for him.

This blows Three Billboards out the water. It was good, though flawed. This is spellbinding — dark, funny, and thought-provoking. For my money, it’s his best movie to date.

It has a small film world, and tells a story that feels personal. It is akin to In Bruges in spirit, and a million miles away from the 2012 star-studded crime comedy Seven Psychopaths, which was a pure Hollywood production. This one has Irish blood, and the script is very theatrical.

And yet, (“he says as if he’s English”) the movie is also very cinematic. Ben Davis, who has worked with Martin on everything after In Bruges, is Director of Photography. He makes stunning use of off-coast locations around West Ireland. There are a handful of shots to die for. If the writing and acting steal the show, it’s not because the photography is less than excellent.

Movies that hit theatrical and cinematic notes without compromising either are, almost always, movies I love. Cinema as “theatre version 2.0” is a concept close to my heart, and Banshees embodies it well.

James Lanternman

Movie reviews, essays, and moonlit thoughts.