The Banshees of Inisherin: The Breakdown of a Friendship

“I just don't like you no more,” Colm tells Pádraic, his lifelong friend on a small island in Ireland. The breakdown of the friendship between these two men brings us a movie that deserves to be appreciated for its chiaroscuro and unique beauty.
The Banshees of Inisherin: The Breakdown of a Friendship
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 03 March, 2023

They say that the end of a friendship can hurt as much as the end of a relationship. The latest movie from the Anglo-Irish director, Martin McDonagh, reveals this very fact. The same director who brought us the unforgettable Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in 2017, this time gives us a story that, although bordering on black comedy, dances on the precipice of tragedy.

In fact, The Banshees of Inisherin has won several awards and is the favorite to win the Oscar for best movie at the 95th Academy Awards. It isn’t hard to see why. Both script and actors captivate and the action is carefully composed. Moreover, there’s splendid photography and exquisite direction. Indeed, it’s reminiscent of the classic David Lean and John Ford movies.

This is a production with which we all, in some way, can identify. After all, we’ve all, at some time or another suffered broken friendships. The movie also exudes the suffocation and oppression generated by small towns, spaces that eat away at individuals’ spirits and even their expectations.

“This isn’t about Inisherin. It’s about one boring man leaving another man alone, that’s all.”

-The Banshees of Inisherin, 2022-

frame of Banshees by Inisherin
Colin Farrell stars as Pádraic, the man unable to accept that his longtime friend no longer wants him in his life.

The Banshees of Inisherin, the island of dissatisfaction

The fact that Martin McDonagh is a playwright brings a more delicate, emotional, and profound type of narrative to his productions. In this movie, his choice of actors is perfect. Brendan Gleeson plays Colm, a cultured, music-loving man in his sixties dealing with a profound existential crisis. Time is slipping away from him and he longs to leave something behind of value in the world.

Colin Farrell plays Pádraic, a dairy farmer. He’s a simple soul who can spend hours talking about his horse’s droppings. In fact, his life is focused on three elements: his intelligent sister, his little donkey, and his friend Colm. Three dimensions that he ends up losing, much to his despair.

Colm is a man who, seeing the end of his life, decides to dedicate himself to art, deep thought and creativity. Therefore, he decides to break his friendship with Pádraic, a soul who’s now too simple for him.

“Maybe he doesn’t like you anymore”

The Banshees of Inisherin takes place on a small island off the west coast of Ireland in 1923. It doesn’t take us long to emotionally connect with the character of Pádraic. When he knocks on the door of his friend Colm’s house, and he doesn’t answer him, despite being inside smoking, he worries. After all, it’s time to go to the pub to drink beer; a ritual that, suddenly, has been broken.

“Maybe he just doesn’t like you no more,” his sister Siobhán comments. A premonitory phrase that, unfortunately for Pádraic, turns out to be true. The truth is that his friend has decided to remove him from his life because he feels he doesn’t bring him anything. Seeing himself on the precipice of his own existence, after taking stock, he decides that he should focus on more important aspects of his life.

However, Pádraic isn’t capable of accepting this breakup and inexplicable distance. Reluctant to move away from Colm’s orbit, he instigates different situations that often border on the grotesque and even the tragic. How can he accept that someone who, a day ago was his friend, suddenly shuns him and criticizes him for his simplicity?

The failed hope in Inisherin

The problem with small towns is that everyone wants to escape yet few actually do so. Those who stay get suffocated and become swallowed up in grief. It’s easy to sense that Colm is a character suffering from deep depression. In fact, Pádraic understands his behavior is the source of his sadness.

However, he tells his sister that what his friend should do is the same as everyone in Inisherin, to keep his regrets and misfortunes to himself. “Push it down, like the rest of us”, he insists. But, hopelessness is like the sea mist that rises from the cliffs to the island. It saturates everything, including the minds of the people.

Young Dominic is another notable character. He’s a young man who longs to escape the brutality of his father (the local Garda) and have a relationship with Siobhán, Pádraic’s brilliant sister. Meanwhile, Siobhán also longs to be able to flee from Inisherin and not end up like most of its inhabitants. These are souls in pain, dreaming of something that’ll never happen.

All the characters on the island of Inisherin are broken and hopeless, except for Pádraic. His life was happy until his best friend stopped talking to him.

moment of Banshees by Inisherin
The loss of Pádraic’s (Colin Farrell) kindness is the saddest part of the film.

The tragic beauty of life contained on an island

This movie brings us more than just the story of a breakdown of a friendship between two men. The break is actually a tragedy. Onlookers don’t hesitate in positioning themselves on one side or the other: the friend who’s gone or the one left behind. Who do we understand more? Possibly neither but both equally.

However, every action has consequences and Colm’s decision to abandon Pádraic will, for a moment, put an end to the latter’s innate goodness. In fact, Inisherin’s simple soul seeks revenge, as predicted by old Mrs. McCormick. Reminiscent of the gloomy characters from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, two deaths will occur.

Life contained on a small Irish island in the 1920s brings with it the tale of many souls. Some will manage to flee the island and have a hopeful future. Others, the majority, will continue to be condemned, inhabiting a piece of land with echoes of the IRA where frustrations continue to be drowned in beer and no one speaks of their sorrows. Instead, emotions are expressed by the playing of a fiddle.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.