Having never seen any one of Martin McDonagh’s movies, I went into The Banshees of Inisherin with an open mind. I had always heard that his previous films were thrilling and fun (like In Bruges) or serious and dramatic (cue Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) but even with no expectations of what was to come, I was still surprised to be leaving the theater feeling sadness, grief, and regret.
In pure dark comedy fashion, I wasn’t left feeling too upset because no matter how sad it was to see the friendship between Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and Colm (Brendan Gleeson) deteriorating, the film also gives a lot of laughs through characters like Dominic (Barry Keoghan) and the other nosy neighbors living on the island.
It is not so much the performances by Farrell and Gleeson that left me stunned (although they did) but the development of these characters throughout the film. When we meet Pádraic, he is the happy-go-lucky himbo that anyone would love to have as their friend. That’s why when we see him with someone like Colm, there is an initial question of how such an angry and uptight type of man could be his “best” friend. Even so, when Colm calls their friendship to an end, it comes as a shock (especially in a time when “ghosting” is the preferred method of terminating both platonic and romantic relationships). This conflict begs the question, Is Colm the bad guy?
As the film continues, we realize he’s not. All he asks of Pádraic is “a little peace” which can’t happen when your best friend is always talking about his favorite animals’ shit. But still, it stings to see a friendship fall apart when it feels like you’ve done nothing wrong and it’s why we sympathize with Pádraic so much. With no hobbies, his only source of companionship comes from a sister who pities him and a pet donkey named Jenny. But when all these relationships come to an end, Pádraic’s psyche declines swiftly.
Rather than tell Colm how he feels, Pádraic goes through a series of invasive acts that forces his sister (who, as one of the few female figures in the film, is the only rational one there) to ask if he ever gets lonely. He responds “Do I ever get lonely? What’s the matter with everyone?” Clearly, Pádraic thinks he is fine and is responding to this foreign crisis in his life as any normal person would: by setting a house on fire and plotting revenge on your ex-best friend till the day you die.
But aside from these characters and their turbulent friendship, a notable aspect of the film was the not-so-subtle reflection on the influence of Irish Catholicism. There are many scenes where a large stone cross sits in a corner of the screen while characters are traveling to and from the island’s ports. In one scene, a statue of Mary herself watches over Colm as he helps a freshly beaten Pádraic get back home. As a war is fought on the mainland between the British Crown forces and the Irish Republican Army, islanders on Inisherin are dealing with their own personal battles and looking for any signs of peace. These signs are found through characters like Dominic, whose cheeky personality and childish behaviors bring light and laughter to the dark and stormy clouds of immature male behaviors and bloody wars.
As the film reaches its finale, it is clear that there is no one bad guy or victim; instead, Pádraic and Colm are two lost souls grasping for ideas that feel far away. For Pádraic, it means a lasting love that gives him the companionship he longs for. For Colm, legacy is what drives him to pursue his music, even if it means pushing everyone out of his life to get there. In the end, I pity them both and would hope that if all else failed, they would have each other. But McDonagh reminds us that life is not like that and if there is anything to be taken away from The Banshees of Inisherin, it is to ask for space from your friends if you need it and find peace if they don’t feckin’ listen to you.
Kayla Melendez is a senior in the English Literature at FIU. Upon graduating, she has no idea what she wants to do with her life, as long as she is tan and happy. Naturally curious, she enjoys reading, writing, and watching films.