There is a lot of laughter in “The Banshees of Inisherin,”; which is surprising considering the core of it is filled with the melancholic song of loneliness. In what could be considered his sweetest movie yet, Martin McDonough brings back his “In Bruges” lead pair of Irish actors Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, along with more Irish talents like Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. In fact, for his fourth directorial venture, the Irish director has gone back completely to his roots as the rest of his cast is all Irish as well, and the movie was shot entirely in Ireland.

Also, Read – The Banshees Of Inisherin (2022) Review: A Seamless Work Of Farce And Sorrow

Brimming with the warmth of a fleece blanket that is mainly coming from Farell’s Pádraic and partially coming from Keoghan’s Dominic, “The Banshees of Inisherin” comes off as a poignant tale of human friendship and how the lack of it can affect everything. Without getting over the top with the drama, the movie soars by shedding light on loneliness and the cynicism that comes with it.

Like all the other McDonough movies, the narrative is pretty straightforward to follow but also packs a lot of punches you wouldn’t see coming. I am going to make an attempt at dissecting all the “what it really means” aspect of it in this article, which is going to be filled with spoilers from this point. So only go ahead if you have seen the movie and are still pondering over it.

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022): Movie Synopsis and Plot summary

Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell in The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

High On Films in collaboration with Avanté

Ireland, 1923. The Irish civil war is about to end.

Far from the madness of the war-torn mainland, there lies the island called Inisherin, filled with endless lush green pastors. Life in Inisherin is nothing much other than endless, nonsensical chatting, animal husbandry, and drinking to infinity. Pádraic (Farrell) has nothing to complain about though, as he is content enough with what he has. The biggest highlight of Pádraic’s life is probably his friendship with folk musician Colm (Gleeson). All he cares about is their daytime drinking at the local pub. Pádraic does live with his sister Siobhán (Condon), who he loves very much. And the one other being he loves is their donkey, Jenny. Unlike her happy-go-lucky brother, Siobhán is discontent and frustrated with the mundane of her life at Inisherin.

Pádraic’s world comes to an end when one day, Colm suddenly starts ignoring him. Colm doesn’t answer when Pádraic knocks on his door. He refuses to sit with Pádraic at the pub. He asks Pádraic to stay away from him. 

An obviously baffled Pádraic tries to figure out what has happened, but he doesn’t reach anywhere. As a matter of coincidence, the day Colm starts his cold treatment happens to be the last day of March. So maybe it’s Colm’s attempt to pull a prank on his best friend to celebrate the first day of April. At least, that’s what Pádraic thinks at first. But Colm ensures he is wrong. He doesn’t care about April fool’s day. He really means it.

What follows is a strangely cathartic tale fuelled by the two men having different kinds of emotional meltdowns.

Why did Colm stop being friends with Pádraic?

We do find the answer pretty soon. So does Pádraic. And it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Colm doesn’t like Pádraic anymore. But Colm liked him just the day before, Pádraic wonders. He can’t accept that his best friend not liking him and wants to do nothing with him.

“Because you are dull.”

Colm says to Pádraic, loud and clear. He explains that spending time with Pádraic has become a waste of time for him, and he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life talking about animal shite in detail, as he refers to their last prolonged conversation. Instead of that, he would rather compose a piece of music that will give him the emotional fulfillment that he has been looking for a long time.

How did Pádraic take it?

Obviously, not great. Compared to Colm, Pádraic is instead a one-noted person who doesn’t have any other hobbies or interests. After hearing he is “dull,” Pádraic starts questioning himself and wondering what people really think of him. Siobhán, the rather intelligent sibling of the two, tries to console her brother and asks him to stay away from Colm, as one should. He develops a kind of friendship with Dominic (Keoghan), the island’s official dimwit who is mistreated by everybody and especially by his own abusive father, policeman Peadar (Gary Lydon). But Pádraic finds it really hard not to bother Colm.

Getting constantly irritated by Pádraic, Colm warns him that if Pádraic doesn’t stop bothering him, then he will chop off one finger from his left hand and will keep chopping his fingers off until  Pádraic stops. Siobhán suspects Colm might be suffering from depression, which gets further confirmed by this extremity.

Why couldn’t Pádraic stop bothering Colm?

Well, he tries. Pádraic, being the genuinely lovely man he is, gives his everything to stay away from Colm. He sits away in the pub, and doesn’t look at Colm while passing by. Meanwhile, Dominic takes shelter at Pádraic and Siobhán’s after getting mercilessly beaten by his father for stealing alcohol. The next morning, Peader publicly heckles Pádraic and beats him. Seeing that, Colm comes to rescue Pádraic and takes him home. In one of the most heartbreaking but equally wholesome scenes that I have seen this year, Pádraic doesn’t say a single word on the way back and keeps weeping throughout the road. At home, he lets Jennie enter the house despite knowing his sister doesn’t approve of that.

On that night, we find Colm playing music at a packed-up local pub with a group of musicians and also sharing a laugh in between with Peader. Seeing all that, a heavily drunk and sad Pádraic loses it and heavily insults Colm. Strangely enough, Colm seems to dig that.

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“I think I like him again.”

A perplexed Colm says about Pádraic. But genuinely nice at heart, Pádraic can’t forgive himself for his outburst at his best friend. So the next morning, he apologizes to Colm. And that leads to Colm chopping one of his fingers off and angrily throwing the bloodied finger to Pádraic’s door.

Why did Colm take his finger off?

To my understanding, Colm was indeed suffering from depression. Siobhán managed to deduct that from his behavior because she was suffering from the same thing. There are several scenes in the movie where these two characters are interacting, and in these scenes, Siobhán really seems to understand what Colm is going through despite no direct mention of such things.

As Colm fails to shake Pádraic off his life, he reaches his boiling point and takes extreme measures of chopping his own finger. Sometimes hurting our own selves is the only way to make someone understand something; at least, that is what Colm thought.

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022): Themes explained

The struggle with Loneliness

Every character in the movie is lonely, deep down. While Pádraic gets around it by hanging around with Colm and eventually Dominic; for Colm, it stops working after a point. As Colm is much more intellectually advanced (and possibly aware) than Pádraic, it becomes increasingly difficult for him to be around Pádraic anymore. Siobhán also has the same issue, but unlike Colm, she doesn’t have to shut down Pádraic. Also, contrary to Colm, she is not selfish to hurt her brother and abandon him.

Unlike Colm and Siobhán, both Pádraic and Dominic are not quite aware of their issues. That is why Pádraic gets concerned about Colm suffering from depression, but he never really thinks about doing something about his own. And Dominic, possibly the most unfortunate of all characters, keeps trying to make connections with people despite nobody really liked him. The friendship between Pádraic and Dominic becomes beneficial for both, especially for the latter.

Intellectual superiority is not everything, but it does matter

One of the major highlights of “The Banshees of Inisherin” has to be how it deals with intellectual superiority. Colm, who is a musician, gets to the point in life where he has this realization that life is just passing by and he will die one day without achieving anything substantial. This incessant urge to curate something, in this case, a piece of music, that actually matters and will stay on gets multiplied by his depression which pushes him to do the inevitable.

But Pádraic does not get that as he lacks the ability to understand what his friend is going through. He doesn’t know Mozart, as he said by him; all that matters to him is being nice. That is why he doesn’t have a responsibility to do something memorable or spend his life in a certain way. When Pádraic gets drunk at the pub, he keeps talking about how being nice is his only deal, while Colm keeps arguing about doing something productive or anything.

The best thing about the movie is it doesn’t really take a side. The way I personally see it, while Pádraic is right and he is the person I genuinely feel for here; Colm’s point is also valid. I have my own bit of experience of ditching plans with my friends (whom I consider intellectually inferior) and watching cinema instead. This is a kind of feeling which can’t be ignored as it keeps getting difficult as time passes by you.

While Colm does what needs to be done, Siobhán keeps suppressing her desire. She desperately wants to get out of the island, as this life doesn’t suit her. It keeps pushing her toward an inevitable death after so many frustrating years. As I see a desperate Siobhán sending a job application to the mainland, I start rooting for her even though I feel bad for Pádraic.

Statement against war and Police brutality

McDonough’s movie is primarily about Colm and Pádraic and their crumbling friendship, but the movie also successfully manages to make its statement against war. While the war action goes on in the mainland, people in Inisherin are practically unbothered by it. Pádraic, the movie’s lead, casually questions the point of the war, and he doesn’t get any proper answer, which only proves what the movie is trying to say.

Dominic’s father, Peader, thinks so highly of himself just by being a policeman. Being on the side of the law automatically gives him the right to abuse his own son; at least, that’s what he believes. By giving him all the power and showing how Dominic is suffering, the movie makes a strong point against police brutality. In the same pub scene where Pádraic blasts Colm, he also belittles Peader for being a terrible parent to Dominic. This alone makes Pádraic a better man than anyone else and proves the argument of kindness being a very essential tool for the survival of a society.

Kindness is also received by Siobhán from the most unexpected place when Dominic confesses his love for her with all honesty, perfectly knowing that he wouldn’t get any reciprocation. Siobhán, who initially dislikes Dominic, does not come on board with Dominic’s feelings, but she does not insult him flat out either and appreciates his earnestness. Earlier, Siobhán gets insulted by the Peader, which makes this scene more meaningful.

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022): Ending Explained 

A minor but significant character Mrs. McCormick foresees two deaths on the island of Inisherin and warns Pádraic. Meanwhile, Siobhán gets the job of a librarian on the mainland. Colm finishes his  tune and names it “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Pádraic makes an attempt to show interest in his friend’s interest with no good result. Still getting bothered by Pádraic even after chopping one finger, Col finally reaches the fringe and chops all the remaining fingers of his left hand off and throws them around Pádraic and Siobhán’s house. Unfortunately, Jennie bites one of those fingers, gets poisoned, and dies. An enraged Pádraic wages war against his best friend as an effect of that, while Colm looks for an apology. Now taking a cue from similar extremist action of Colm, Pádraic very publicly threatens to set fire to Colm’s house.

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Siobhán leaves, but soon Pádraic finds a letter from his sister asking him to come to leave with her on the mainland and handing the animals over to Dominic. But Pádraic writes her back that he is not going to leave Inisherin as the island is where he wants to be.

As he promised, Pádraic actually sets fire to Colm’s house while we see an absolutely unbothered Colm smoking inside, just like that. Pádraic, fresh from the wound of losing his pet donkey, doesn’t forget to take Colm’s dog out of the house before going ahead with the madness, though. On his way to Pádraic’s house, Peader is stopped by Mrs. McCormick, who takes him to the floating body of Dominic, who has probably slipped and died by drowning.

But Colm survives, as Pádraic finds him the next day at the beach. Colm says sorry for accidentally killing Jennie and requests Pádraic to end this madness now that Pádraic has taken his revenge by burning his house. He also thanks Pádraic for taking care of his dog. Pádraic, however, refuses to back down.

The way I see it, despite Pádraic refusing to stop, the war between the two friends has ended. Pádraic has finally accepted what has happened. The match of madness has ended at a stalemate, and the friendship is not there anymore. It is essentially a breakup movie, where it becomes increasingly difficult for a man to let go of the most precious thing in his life. But at the end of the day, he does come of age.

McDonough has used his signature tropes of out-of-the-blue violence and a dash of bitter cynicism in the final act of the movie to close things down. Despite that, “The Banshees of Inisherin” is as tender as a feather and possibly the best work of McDonough yet. And if I ever come across someone like Pádraic, I am going to give him a giant tight hug.

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