So often movies must have big, grandiose stakes in order to appease a wide audience.

They have global, if not universal consequences to the world filmmakers create, require massive budgets, large casts, intricate sets and visual effects to become cinematic blockbusters worthy of the big screen.

The scale to which the average movie has expanded has drastically altered the landscape of modern filmmaking and when more intimate portraits of simplicity are crafted by experts with unique vision and care, this exceedingly rare achievement deserves to be shown to as wide an audience as possible to remind moviegoers that not every movie must be an epic tale.

Such is the case with Academy Award winner Martin McDonagh’s latest feature, perhaps the simplest of his four films that examines a low-stakes story between two men with a relatively minor grievance and allows it to play out naturally and fluidly over the course of 100 minutes.

Set on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, The Banshees of Inisherin follows long-time friends Pádraic and Colm at a crossroads when Pádraic goes to Colm’s house to invite him to the local pub only to realize that Colm no longer wants to be friends or even speak to him ever again.

Because of the stakes of Banshees are so small, there’s a lot of time for McDonagh and his cast to unpack the seemingly simple act of ending friendship and expand the depths to a scale more befitting of a stage play rather than theatrical cinema. 

Banshees is McDonagh’s most composed and focused as a screenwriter, with a tightly constructed world that focuses on dialogue rather than bombastic violence like his Oscar-winning Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri or the audacious Seven Psychopaths. It’s also McDonagh at his strongest in the director’s chair as he commands the camera with an assuredness he hasn’t completely shown before as a filmmaker.

But it’s clear from the outset that McDonagh’s vision for Banshees is closely woven in with the actors he wrote the film for, reteaming him with his In Bruges stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson.

As Pádraig, Farrell takes a rather bland character and invigorates him with more heart than any performance in the talented Irish actor’s career. Farrell portrays Pádraig as charmingly simple and it never feels like Farrell rushes through the moment or overly considers Pádraig’s thoughts, rather the simplicity comes as a natural extension of Farrell’s connection to the character.

This is especially true when it comes to Pádraig’s devotion to Colm, where the emotional bond between Farrell and Gleeson seeps over into their characters as it would normally resonate better in a stage play. The genuine affection the two have for each other radiates off the screen even as the plot drives Pádraig and Colm further apart.

Gleeson, though clearly in support, also more than holds his own through a stoic gruffness that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats wondering what Colm’s true motivations are and whether he’ll live up to his words.

The secondary characters of Banshees, especially Kerry Condon as Pádraig’s sister and Barry Keoghan as the town simpleton, help provide color to the vibrant world McDonagh creates in such a small setting.

One of the most entertaining elements in Banshees are the ways in which McDonagh utilizes animals as supporting characters, whether it be the emotional connection between Pádraig and his donkey Jenny or a particularly funny exchange between Colm and his dog.

The film is visually arresting without being distracting from the overall narrative and cinematographer Ben Davis does a remarkable job in both framing and especially lighting Banshees in interesting and engaging ways. This is particularly true in how the town pub is lit and the care used to frame cast members in limited natural lighting.

Banshees has strong potential to be a major contender this awards season with the film being almost a lock for a Best Picture nomination and McDonagh’s screenplay as well as Farrell’s lead performance likely to receive considerations. It also could easily land in cinematography and score categories as well as propel Gleeson into a supporting actor nod if the film overperforms.

Sure to be one of the year’s most acclaimed and well-received films, The Banshees of Inisherin deserves a much wider audience than its current limited release and is well worth ardent cinephiles seeking out in theaters.

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