Why do we ever become friends with someone? Is it because there is a common interest, because there is a compatibility of personality, because we have just known them for a long time, or because they are there when no one else is, literally and metaphorically? In that case, are they really our friends or just people in our lives we are forced to invest in emotionally due to the limitation of options? “The Banshees of Inisherin” explores such a relationship when one person, Colm, decides that he is done faking his love for his longtime ‘friend,’ for lack of a better word. This is a tragedy here; namely, the loss of a lifelong friendship and the emotional world it comes with. But we believe that every tragedy carries an element of comedy due to the clash of the basest human emotions with the socially mandatory niceties to maintain appearances.
At the heart of it, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a fantasy. The fantasy we have all had when we have wanted to end a friendship for good but couldn’t because of reasons of politeness or care about the other person’s feelings, at the cost of our own. How many times have we wanted to tell an annoying person that we just don’t want their presence in our lives? However, it cannot be denied that the relationships of the world operate in terms of good and evil. Is the person evil or actively harmful? No? Then why not let him be in your life? “Their feelings don’t deserve to get hurt” is what we are most likely to hear. And that is what Colm hears when he abruptly ends his friendship with Padraic. Technically, Padraic was a good person. He never harmed anyone and was responsible and caring toward the people around him. His one fallacy was that he was not too bright. But Inisherin is a small town where the pace of life is not that fast. Everyone has an opinion on everyone, and nobody is ostracized just because their scope of conversation skills is limited. Literally, everybody thought that Padraic was dull, but that didn’t stop them from socializing with him. However, there is a difference between socializing and being friends. Acquaintances don’t have to hear you talk about your innermost thoughts for hours together. They don’t get to have an opinion on it that would affect your life. That is a privilege reserved for friends, except when you don’t want to be a friend, it turns into a drawback. Colm and Padraic had been friends for years. Which means that Colm had fulfilled his fair share of politeness. He had listened to hours and days of Padraic talking about things that bored him out of his mind. He must have struggled with similar questions: “I have known him all my life, so how can I cut him out of it now?” “Will I be able to avoid him in a small town like this?” “Can I really let his feelings be hurt because he is a nice man at the end of the day?” “Who will be my friend if he leaves?” Please note that when Colm finally ended his friendship with Padraic, it wasn’t with malice. It was with indifference. He did not have a single ounce of pretense left in him. As he said, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the two-hour conversation or talking at Colm that Padraic had done about donkey shit.
We believe it is naive to think that friendships are not selfish since they definitely are, just like any other relationship. As human beings, we want nourishment for our brains, our hearts, and our souls. Everything we do in life, including the relationships we form, is in pursuit of that. When Colm found that he was getting none of that from Padraic, he ended it. When the other villagers learned about it, they were more shocked that Colm had taken the step than his reasons for doing so, which they seemed to understand. Padraic says at one point that his only friends were Colm, Dominic, and his sister Siobhan. The rest of the village was just people he saw every day. That is why he couldn’t take the fact that Colm was no longer by his side. The simplicity of his personality couldn’t comprehend that friendship was based on more than the amount of time you may have spent together. That is why, despite Colm’s threats, he continued to try and make peace. But Colm was not just done; he refused to entertain any possibility of Padraic coming back into his life. Hence, he made good on his threats. This, surprisingly, reminds us of a scene from “Fleabag” Season 2, where Claire gets down on her knees to convince her husband that she doesn’t want to be with him. He had not thought she would do that, and Padraic or any of the villagers had not believed that Colm would actually let blood flow. There is an absurdity to it, yet it comes with a strange relatability. We cannot help feeling that everyone knows a Padraic who they refuse to allow back into their lives. The one thing we will acknowledge is that though Colm ended the friendship, he still maintained respect for the relationship they had once shared. He lent a helping hand when Padraic was punched by the inspector. He also knew what Jenny meant to Padraic and supported him in his own way when he lost her. That was admirable.
At the end of “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Padraic loses everyone dear to him. Colm is not his friend anymore; Dominic is dead, as is Jenny, and Siobhan has moved away. The way it all unfolds is absurd, yet it plays to one of our greatest fears: what if we are not good enough to have someone by our side when everything is ending? Well, the only thing we can say is that as long as you are a decent person, whether or not you have friends, people will respect you and be there for you in times of need, like Colm was there for Padraic. We so badly want everyone in the world to watch this movie, but alone. “The Banshees of Inisherin” will make you question every friendship you have had throughout your life. We are not saying that you will come out of it wiser, but it serves well to shatter any and all illusions we may have about ourselves regarding the way we approach people. And for that, this is a must-watch.