“I just don’t like ya no more.” Imagine your lifelong best friend wakes up one day and decides they no longer want to be friends with you. This is how the fantastic Irish period piece “Banshees of Inisherin” begins. Directed by Martin McDonagh, the creative mind behind the critically acclaimed films “In Bruges” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” this tragi-comedy unexpectedly became one of my favorite movies of 2022. “Banshees” takes place on an isolated Irish island called Inisherin during the Irish Civil War. There is a pub, a church, a small collection of houses, a post office, and a single policeman.

The protagonist, Padraic, played by Colin Farrell, lives with his sister Siobhan, portrayed by Kerry Condon, and pet pony Jenny, spending every day at the pub with his best friend Colm, played by Brendan Gleeson. Padraic lives a simple life. He starts each day with his farm duties, and then at two o’clock, he trudges down to the pub to have a drink with Colm. The movie begins on one of these unremarkable days, but this time, things will be different. Colm suddenly refuses to talk to Padraic. This is quite comedic at first. Padraic pursuing Colm is undoubtedly funny, especially when Padraic employs some of his more complicated antics. All three of us at the local AMC were laughing for a good 45 minutes of the film. “Banshees of Inisherin” only escalates from here. What comes after includes a dead pony or a donkey, as everyone else seems to think; a missing set of five fingers; and a drowned village idiot.

The central conflict of “Banshees of Inisherin” rests on a single question: Is it better to live a simple, happy life or one of meaning and fulfillment? Colm and Siobhan wrestle with that throughout the film. In Colm’s entire life, he spends each day in blissful ignorance with Padraic. But as he reaches the twilight of his life, or so he thought, only being 60 years old, he began to question whether he has a responsibility to leave a legacy. As we learn, this is the reason he ended his relationship with Padraic. He views his “friend” as an obstacle to a life of meaning. The film is largely told from the point of view of Padraic, not Colm, so while we gradually gain a sense of this internal battle, we instinctively side with our protagonist. Farrell’s tremendously grounded performance contributes to that. We sympathize with the simple, nice man that Padraic naturally is, experiencing the same sadness as his life falls apart. The way Farrell and McDonagh work in tandem in presenting the Padraic character is very effective. At this point, the theater I was in was completely silent and focused on the performance. But the film was not finished here. Padraic still had emotional pain ahead of him. Unfortunately, as if the film couldn’t damage Padraic any further, his sister is suffering from the same internal struggle. Locked on an island, she feels her environment restricts her potential.

Her passion for literature and discovery is stifled. Like Colm, she makes the difficult choice to change, leaving Padraic behind in the process. In almost a week, Padraic loses everyone important to him in his life. The true strength of the film lies in its characters, particularly Farrell’s. It is hard to explain the degree of empathy that I felt for him as the film progressed. With every rebuff by Colm, Padraic loses a bit of the person he was before. The happy guy McDonagh presents us with at the start is, by the end, a cold, shattered man. It is hard to watch. Farrell navigates the character in a way that forces us to viscerally experience that change. His body language shifts.

He no longer gives his classic Padraic smile. He has, in a sense, lost his soul. At this point, for the audience, it becomes impossible to sympathize with Colm. Gleeson’s character has inflicted such pain on Padraic that, despite the logic of Colm’s reasoning, what he did is inexcusable. In pursuit of personal satisfaction, he has destroyed his friend. Inexplicably, when the film fades to black, we are not sad for the person Padraic has become but for the person he was.

“Banshees of Inisherin” has seriously affected me. Even a week later, it has not left my mind. Colm and Padraic’s struggle has made me evaluate and consider the relationships in this new context. Why am I friends with my friends? Is it for the good times or because we share similar traits and values? I have never watched a film that has, a week later, caused me to change the way I perceive my world. The lessons of the tragedy that befell Padraic also remain. Without all of the people that made Padraic who he was, what was left of him? The film forced me to confront those questions. I wholeheartedly endorse watching this film but only warn that it is a difficult experience to endure.