Every year, there is a film that seems overhyped. Not in the sense that the masses have watched it and are claiming that it is the best thing ever. But in the sense that the film is aimed at a very niche section of the audience. And those who have watched it desperately want everyone else to join in as well so that they can get more films like that. Sadly, the outcome of overhyping is usually disappointment because nothing can measure up to the movie you have imagined in your head. I was under the impression that “The Banshees of Inisherin” was going to fall into that category this year. The trailer was pretty simple, as it showed two friends going their separate ways for no rational reason. Everything from the setting to the performances looked very low-key. However, as soon as people started to see it, they praised it immensely. It has gotten quite the awards buzz. So, I was really scared that the film was going to deflate my sky-high expectations. Well, folks, now that I have watched it, I can confidently say that it is as good as everyone has been saying. In fact, I will say that Martin McDonagh has made one of the best movies of all time.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Colm Doherty And Late-Stage Peacocking Amongst Men
When Pádraic understands that Colm doesn’t want to associate with him anymore, the first thing that crosses his mind is whether he has said something offensive. He even says that if he has said anything bad, he will apologize for it. Colm initially states that he doesn’t want to talk to Pádraic because he doesn’t “like” him anymore. But he doesn’t explain what the reason is for this sudden feeling of dislike towards him. When Pádraic pursues him a little more, Colm reveals that he thinks he hasn’t utilized his life properly. According to him, he has spent way too many days in dull, pointless conversations with Pádraic, and he doesn’t want to do that anymore. After all this time, he wants to correct this grave mistake by living peacefully and composing music. There’s more to it, though. He wants to compose music not just for himself but also because he thinks that it will somehow immortalize him. That reeks of pride, and he even admits it to the priest without realizing how pompous he sounds. However, when Pádraic doesn’t understand the gravity of his commitment, he starts to cut off his fingers until he has none on his right hand. And that’s when you wonder: Is all this worth the pain and hate?
Colm represents a midlife crisis (I am assuming he’s in his 60s because that’s Brendan Gleeson’s age) with an unhealthy dollop of late-stage peacocking. It’s quite okay to begin a new chapter of your life, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of basic decency. But, sadly, most times, that is the case. Because the person going through said crisis knows he’s angry at himself for wasting all these years. However, instead of holding themselves accountable, they put the blame on everyone else and hurt them. Accusing Pádraic of “holding him back” is Colm’s way of shifting blame from himself to a person who has probably looked after him all this time very sincerely. In fact, Pádraic seems so concerned that I’m sure he would’ve agreed to give Colm some space if he had started his music-making process by explicitly stating that. Instead, he gives him the silent treatment and acts rudely, thereby preventing Pádraic from understanding why he needs to be shunned like this. Colm’s new approach to his life and those that populate it is wrong. He can’t see that because he is blinded by his arrogance. Or maybe he does, and instead of restarting the process properly, he doubles down on it by harming himself, which increases Pádraic’s guilt for trying to reach out to him. The only upside of Colm’s egotism is that he hits back at the policeman and the priest, who represent professions filled with pompous individuals (mostly men).
Pádraic Súilleabháin And The Death Of The ‘Nice Man’
The one thing that Pádraic tries to ensure throughout the runtime of “The Banshees of Inisherin,” is that he’s a nice guy. Yes, he unironically thinks that if Colm is going through a bout of depression, he should suppress it like the rest of them do. But apart from that, yes, Pádraic comes off as a nice guy. He is charitable toward Dominic. He cares about his sister, Siobhán. He looks after his animals. However, as his patience starts to dwindle because of Colm’s actions, he starts to partake in snitching, first with the priest and then with the policeman. The result of the former is Colm’s ultimatum with the fingers, and the result of the latter is a punch to his face. During his outburst, he says the word “nice” hundreds of times because he thinks that’s the most important thing in life. And he is not wrong about that. Does he follow that principle, though, through and through? No, he doesn’t. He straight-up lies about death to one of Colm’s new friends to get him out of Inisherin so that he can have Colm all to himself again. When Dominic calls that out, he realizes that his exterior image does not match what he has become on the inside, i.e., not nice.
I have to make it clear that niceness is an undervalued attribute in this modern, cynical world. We have finite lives and being nice is the least we can do. Since that’s not the case and the bar for basic human ethics is practically underground, there are people (men, to be specific) who think they are owed something for doing the bare minimum. If they aren’t misogynistic or abusive or are moderately educated, they think they should be applauded. Because they see the men around them not doing all that and still getting rewarded in this patriarchal society. So, instead of being nice of their own volition, they start to put on an act to get brownie points or favors from people. Pádraic does start out as a nice guy. But Colm’s erratic actions force him to see that there’s a limit to his niceness. And beyond that limit, Pádraic is only wearing the shell of a nice guy while acting out his basic urges. He is selfish and vengeful, both attributes that are not synonymous with niceness. Yes, Colm should not have acted rudely. However, that was on him. By reacting to it, Pádraic becomes something worse than Colm. Therefore, folks, men, be nice for yourself and not because you want to get some pats on your back for nothing.
Siobhán Súilleabháin, Mrs. McCormick, And The Consequences Of Patriarchy
Siobhán acts as the voice of reason between Colm and Pádraic while harboring aspirations of her own. She tries to understand her brother and her brother’s ex-best friend. She applies for jobs on the mainland. She ensures that the house is neat and clean. She isn’t married, which is clearly not the custom on that island. And although people think she’s a loser for staying unmarried, she takes it in her stride. She calls Dominic’s behavior creepy and rejects his romantic proposal in a polite manner. Talking about calling men out, she explicitly states that Colm is being arrogant just because he’s trying to do something different on an island full of boring men. She highlights Pádraic’s selfishness for thinking about himself right after hearing that she is going to the mainland for a job instead of, you know, being happy and supportive about her endeavor. On the flip side, Mrs. O’Riordan and Mrs. McCormick spend their time listening to gossip and passing it around. Mrs. McCormick technically becomes the titular banshee of Inisherin by predicting deaths and becoming an unpleasant person to be around, which is exemplified by the place she stays, i.e., a lonesome house near the cold lake.
Through Siobhán, O’Riordan, and McCormick, “The Banshees of Inisherin” holds up a mirror to the patriarchal society. McDonagh shows that when a community is made of dull, boring, and misogynistic men, the first thing that they do is demean the women around them. Siobhán, O’Riordan, and McCormick are turned into stereotypes. But, maybe because of her age and her ability to see a life ahead of her, only Siobhán manages to break this cycle of oppression. Meanwhile, O’Riordan and McCormick continue to perpetuate misogynistic practices on behalf of the men (it’s called internalized misogyny; look it up). However, what exactly lies in Siobhán’s future after leaving Inisherin? The mainland is plagued with a civil war that’s being waged by men who are pettier than those in Inisherin. Hence, there’s no saying when the aftermath of that nonsense will reach her. In addition to the threat of physical trauma, she is going to be mentally traumatized for life after reading Pádraic’s letter and learning that Dominic died by suicide because she rejected him. If she understands that it’s not her fault and that Dominic (and maybe his father) is to blame for his immaturity, then that’s good. If she finds it too overwhelming to handle, then the ghosts of Inisherin will continue to haunt her even though she has physically distanced herself from that dreary island.