Haunting banshees

Jack Rogula, asst. opinions editor

 The remote island of Insherin, off the coast of Western Ireland, is where the film Banshees of Insherin finds its two protagonists separated. With stunning cinematography and music, Director Martin McDonagh masterfully composes a melancholy, yet at times darkly humorous, tragicomedy. Capturing the tense and erratic deterioration of a long-time friendship -while  also presenting the quaint and homely atmosphere of Insherin, the film never fails to keep its audience on their toes.

Set in the midst of the Irish Civil War of 1923, Banshees of Insherin follows Padraic (Colin Farrel) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson), two friends who have suddenly found themselves at crossroads when Colm decides he no longer wishes to be friends with Padraic. This seemingly immature and quick rescinding of friendship prompts Padraic to find a companionship in Dominic (Barry Keoghan), a younger boy whose relationship with his father gets Padraic into trouble around town. As the tension between Colm and Padraic continues to increase, their actions against one another become increasingly severe, and the stakes begin to rise dramatically to how far each will go to win against the other. 

The strategic dialogue between the characters, especially between Padraic and Colm, but also including all other minor characters, is one of the film’s greatest strengths. The West-Irish dialect and lingo flows like music of its own, and immerses the viewer into the world of Insherin. Throughout the film, witty quips and lively banter produce some of the most heartfelt and comical moments. 

Cinematography, the heart of many films, beautifully thrives in The Banshees of Insherin. The stunning emerald greens and the sprawling, majestic fields of the Irish islands are matched with infinite and amazing shots of the Atlantic ocean and the beachside village. It builds a sense of isolation and solitude, which fit flawlessly with the plot of the film.

The Banshees of Insherin’’s soundtrack is another area where the film does not falter. Beautiful and soulful Irish folk songs, both orchestral and a capella, do a great job to enhance the film’s sentimental and semi-solemn tone. Fiddle-themed compositions—composed by Carter Burwell, a longtime companion of McDonagh, accompany the characters, and rise in intensity alongside the plot.

The dark comedy of the film is perfectly and masterfully crafted—never feeling unnatural or untimely, it is woven into just the right moments, giving the film a perfect balance of both deep, heartfelt emotion as well as droll and uproarious humor. Similar to that of McDonagh’s early 2008 film, In Bruges, the dark comedy fares well when synergized with the serious subject matter.

Emotion nearly seeps out of the screen all through the film as Farrel and Gleeson give some of the strongest performances of their careers. From awkward to furious, to distraught and defeated, the emotions their characters communicate are projected expertly, and are perfect examples of “tear-jerker” performances.

The Banshees of Insherin tugs not only on the heartstrings, but on the comedy-strings of viewers as well. It is deep, heatwrenching, and beautiful. Despairingly hysterical, it would be a shame to miss out on this film. Streaming now on HBO Max, The Banshees of Insherin is a film that will not just be watched, but thoroughly enjoyed by all.