Directed by Martin McDonagh, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is a thought-provoking dark comedy with a brilliant script, an outstanding performance, and spectacular cinematography. McDonagh’s film is set on a remote Irish island and involves the once-best friends, Padraic and Colm. Padraic cherished the tranquility that came with a mundane existence. Every day was spent the same way, and his routine involved knocking on Colm’s door at 2 p.m. But a sudden change in Colm’s attitude left Padraic’s life in complete chaos. With a simplistic approach, “The Banshees of Inisherin” starts off with a rather uncomplicated storyline, but the further it progresses, the more it gets into its tragic comedy element, resulting in a profound ending.
‘The Banshees Of Inisherin’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
Tragedy struck Padraic the moment he realized that his best friend Colm was disinterested in him. For the first time, Colm chose not to answer Padraic’s request to join him at the bar at 2. Padraic could not comprehend the situation; he did not remember saying anything wrong or causing any harm to Colm. But then, why was Colm not talking to Padraic? As Siobhan, Padraic’s sister, had suggested that maybe he simply did not wish to be friends. Colm wanted to discontinue his friendship with Padraic, but Padraic was not ready to let go of his friendship. As an adult man living on a scarcely populated island, he had barely two friends, and losing the one he cherished the most was unimaginable for him. Colm found Padraic to be dull, and he did not wish to waste a minute of his life in redundant and unintelligent conversations. He was a fiddler, and he wanted to create music before death struck him. He warned Padraic to stay away, and if he failed to do so, Colm promised that he would chop his fingers. Considering he wanted to create music with his fiddle, his protest seemed to be a form of self-sabotage.
Padraic could not accept losing his best friend. He wondered if he truly was a dimwit, but Siobhan consoled him. Siobhan was aware that her brother was quite dull, but she also knew the pain of being a laughingstock. She had spent most of her life keeping her face buried in books; she had not married and took the responsibility of looking after her brother. She was often taunted for being a single woman, and there were days when all she wanted to do was run far away from the close-minded people of the island town. Apart from the support of his sister, Padraic had the company of his friend, Dominic. Dominic was considered the dullest person on the island. He enjoyed Padraic’s company because, unlike all the men he knew, Padraic was an honest person. Dominic’s life was far from easy; his father, a policeman, physically and sexually abused him on a regular basis. Padraic once asked his father to stop the torture, but instead, he was beaten to the ground. Colm had witnessed the scuffle, and he helped Padraic get on his cart and sat next to him on his way home. Padraic felt hopeful after this incident, but Colm was not ready to rebuild their friendship.
While Padraic treasured Colm’s niceness, Colm had lately realized that niceness meant very little in the world they were living in. He knew he would not be remembered for being a nice man, but if he created good music, people would remember him. But Padraic did not care about the renowned musicians; in his small world, he remembered people based on their good behavior, and he believed that was what mattered in life. For the first time, Colm was impressed by Padraic’s argument, though that did not affect his opinion on ending their friendship.
One of the most intriguing characters in “The Banshees of Inishirin” is Mrs. McCormick. She is a blend of a Shakespearean witch and a gossip monger who had her eyes and ears on every villager and their best-kept secrets. Her predictions were not necessarily precise, but she had an aura of darkness and grimness that will eventually settle over the village.
‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ Ending Explained: Did Padraic and Colm Become Friends Again?
The situation turned grim once Colm started to chop his fingers, as he had promised to do if Padraic contacted him. Padraic never thought he was serious about it, but now it was obvious that he meant what he said. While chopping his finger off was painful to begin with, eventually, it became bearable. It only dawned on him that by chopping his fingers, he would be unable to compose music when Siobhan pointed it out. Colm was not thinking through the decisions he was making. Maybe it truly was his way of keeping himself entertained before dying.
Siobhan received an employment letter from a library on the mainland. She wanted to get away from the island, and Peadar’s hateful comment made her all the more certain about her decision. Leaving her brother was not easy, but she figured that he needed to get a hold of his life without her constant assistance. Not only did Padraic lose her sister that day, but also his only friend, Dominic. When he disclosed how he lied to a music student to keep him away from Colm, Dominic felt disgusted. He could not believe that Padraic could stoop so low. He refused to be friends with the now-mean Padraic. With Siobhan and Dominic gone, Padraic was all alone. He only had his pet miniature donkey, Jenny, to comfort him, but Colm took that from him as well. When Padraic was gone, Colm threw the remaining four fingers at his house.
Unfortunately, Jenny choked on one of his fingers and died. Padraic was furious; he had been tolerating Colm’s sudden change in behavior all this time, but he could not forgive him for being the reason behind Jenny’s death. He walked up to Colm and declared that he would burn his house at two, and he did not care if Colm wanted to stop him. As promised, Padraic burned down the house, sparing the life of his dog. He checked inside the house, and he noticed Colm sitting inside. Even though he was aware that he was not just burning down the house but also Colm, he did not care. That night, Dominic’s body was found. The constant abuse by his father, the rejection of Siobhan, and losing his only nice friend pushed Dominic to the edge. The next morning, Padraic noticed Colm standing at the beach. He had managed to escape from the burning house. He believed that now that his house had burned down, their feud was over. But for Padraic, it was far from over. He compared their feud to the ongoing war. Their friendship was beyond recovery. People can never remain unaffected after the war divided them; similarly, he, too, could not move on after his life was torn apart.
Set in 1923, the Irish civil war unfolds in the background of “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Colm confessed to the priest that he suffered from despair, which was directly related to the war. He had accepted that he could die at any moment and that nothing in life was certain. But that acceptance came at the cost of losing all hope. He was obsessed with composing music he would be remembered for, which further confirmed his fear of death. By accepting that he would die soon, he also had to acknowledge that his days were numbered and that he had to make a mark in life. He had spent hours indulging in redundant conversations with Padraic, but he could not afford to do it anymore. Society no longer cared about a nice person; all that mattered was the contribution one made to the world. War changed him, and he was caught up in the unavoidable bleakness of existence. He believed that Padraic was too naïve to spend his last remaining days with. Or maybe he wanted to end their friendship knowing that the end was near; it was his way of making the sudden absence a little less painful.
The physical manifestation of their separation was Colm’s chopped-off fingers. He was losing parts of his body in the process of scaring Padraic away. He should have valued his fingers, considering that he wanted to create music, but at the same time, maybe for Colm, the futility of it all was becoming more and more prominent. Padraic was innocent and “nice,” but the sadness and rage that Colm brought into his life changed him. Indirectly, too, he was affected by the war. He could kill a man now in a fit of rage, something that old Padraic might not have thought about. Their leisurely life was suddenly interrupted, and the person he loved the most moved away from him. All that helped him be a nice person slowly ceased to exist, forcing him to turn mean and bitter. “The Banshees of Inisherin,” in its subtle, comical style, hints at the reason behind the sudden feud between two adult male best friends who, at one point in their lives, could not live without each other.
While watching “The Banshees of Inisherin,” I was reminded of William Henry Davies’s “Leisure.” The constant need to be productive is the curse of modernity. The film explores how the shift in the economic structure and political condition affected the characters, especially Colm. The existential crisis experienced by Colm as a result of old age and the onset of war, gradually transforms into an existential nihilistic mindset (the chopping off of fingers). Every character, in one way or another, was suffering. When men could not match up with Siobhan’s intellect, they resorted to insulting her for being a single woman. Dominic suffered mentally, physically, and emotionally. The pain inflicted upon him by his father was bearable with the support of Siobhan and Padraic, but as the distance between them grew, the pain consumed him. Everyone close to Padraic was moving away from him (including Colm and Siobhan) in search of a meaningful existence. The days of lazily looking at farms and discussing unimportant details of life are gone now. “The Banshees of Inisherin” explores the war from a distance by focusing on a village that was not directly involved, yet there was a shift in the mentality and desire of the people.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is a 2022 Drama Comedy film directed by Martin McDonagh.