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Film / The Banshees of Inisherin

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Pádraic Súilleabháin: Now, if I've done something to you, just tell me what I've done to you.
Colm Doherty: Well, you didn't do anything to me. I just don't like you no more.
Pádraic Súilleabháin: But you do like me!

The Banshees of Inisherin is a 2022 black tragicomedy film written and directed by Martin McDonagh. It is McDonagh's fourth feature film and stars Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, and Barry Keoghan; Farrell and Gleeson had previously worked together in McDonagh's directorial debut In Bruges.

Set at the tail end of the Irish Civil War in 1923, on a fictional island off the coast of Ireland named Inisherin, the film revolves around two longtime friends, Pádraic Súilleabháin (Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Gleeson). When Colm puts an abrupt end to their friendship, things take a turn for the worse when Pádraic refuses to accept it.

The Banshees of Inisherin premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2022, with Farrell winning the Volpi Cup for Best Actor for the former. It was theatrically released in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States on October 21, 2022.

The Tropes of Inisherin:

  • All for Nothing: For all the bridges he's burned and fingers he's cut off for the sake of being left to compose his music, Colm is no more content with his life at the end of the film than he was at the beginning, confiding to his priest that his despair is still with him. His self-mutilation of his left hand to drive Pádraic away has also ensured that he will never be able to play the fiddle again.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Dominic, in his typically clumsy way, confesses his love to Siobhan, who lets him down as gently as she can.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • It's left unclear whether or not Dominic drowned himself or was killed by his father, or if he really did just slip.
    • The exact state of Pádraic and Colm's relationship is left painfully unresolved, with Colm wishing to end the feud and Pádraic wishing to continue it, then immediately saying he'd watch Colm's dog any time he needed him to. It's probably never going to be the same again, though.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Pádraic uses the phrase 'it takes two to tango' when trying to engage Colm in conversation, which wouldn't be coined until about 30 years after the film takes place. (And even if the phrase had already existed then, it's not like anyone on the island would likely even know what a tango was.)
    • Despite taking place in the Aran Islands, which is one of the most heavily Irish-speaking areas of the country even in modern times, the Irish language has no presence in the film at all, which lead to some criticism from Irish commentators and unfavourable comparisons with Colm Bairéad's The Quiet Girl.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Inisherin" is an anglicisation of "Inis Éireann" meaning 'Island of Ireland', which adds a new dimension to the film's themes. Some critics have interpreted the various foibles and unpleasant behavior of the film's characters as being representative of attitudes present in Irish society as a whole.
  • Blaming the Victim: The entire town of Inisherin, except for Pádraic, seems indifferent to Peadar beating, and possibly molesting, his son Dominic. Mrs O'Riordan says she'd beat him herself given the opportunity.
  • Book Ends: Near the beginning of the film, the priest asks Colm during confession whether his despair is still with him, which Colm curtly denies. The priest asks Colm again near the end of the film, after his actions have indirectly caused the death of Jenny the donkey and Pádraic to swear murderous vengeance on him in retribution. This time, he meekly admits that it is still with him.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The conflict between Pádraic and Colm and the tragic consequences of these are coming due to both sides. Colm is being cold and rude by cutting off a relationship that had otherwise been fine; but Pádraic refusal to back down and accept the end of said relationship only worsens the situation for both of them.
  • Brick Joke: Pádraic mentions that Siobhan hides behind walls whenever she sees Mrs. McCormick around. Later in the movie, when he sees Mrs. McCormick coming, he does just that.
  • Broken Pedestal: Dominic seems to look up to Pádraic, always trying to spend time with him (and Pádraic's sister Siobhan, who he's crushing on). When Pádraic reveals that he lied to Colm's music student about his father being hit by a truck to make him leave the island to screw with Colm, Dominic says that he thought Pádraic was a better man than everyone else on the island, but that he's no better than them. He then leaves, and this is the final time Pádraic sees Dominic before he dies.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Pádraic and Siobhan are very close, and often try to help each other out (not with good results).
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Being set in the 1920s, the cast have a rather blasé attitude towards Colm's mental health. Even Pádraic, who is otherwise depicted as being a Nice Guy, is more irritated than concerned at Colm possibly being depressed, complaining about him being unable to keep it to himself. They only begin showing genuine concern for Colm once he follows through on his threat to cut his fingers off, but are still unwilling to actually do anything about it.
  • Downer Ending: Colm and Pádraic don't reconcile and likely never will. Colm has lost his home, is now down five fingers of his own choosing which means he can never play the fiddle again or have the same kind of life he did prior, and his sense of despair still there. Dominic drowns; whether by accident or suicide is never determined. Pádraic has lost his only two friends, his sister, and his beloved donkey, and his experiences over the film have left him bitter and vengeful towards Colm and unhappy with his life as a whole. Both men are ultimately stuck perpetuating a pointless feud on a miserable island they hate, but can't bring themselves to leave. The only bright spot is that Siobhan has apparently found a fulfilling life on mainland Ireland.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Even when Pádraic's frustration at Colm escalates to the point of violence, he still goes out of his way to ensure Colm's dog is safe and cared for.
  • Fingore: Colm threatens to cut off his fingers if Pádraic continues attempting to keep in contact. Turns out he's very serious about it, ending the movie with none in his left hand.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • As Pádraic and Siobhan walk back home from the pub after Pádraic spoke to Colm, we see Colm throwing his severed finger at Pádraic's door, just as he did earlier. We hear a thump against the door...and then another...and then another...
    • After Pádraic insults Peadar in Mrs O'Riordon's shop, he heads back to his cart and briefly gets distracted noticing Colm coming towards him. While this is happening, Peadar can be seen in the background exiting the shop with his fists clenched and walking in his direction. Seconds later, he's punching Pádraic in the face in retaliation for his comments.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In just about every scene she is in, Jenny the donkey is attempting to eat something she shouldn't be. Eventually, she attempts to eat one of Colm's fingers and chokes to death on it.
    • Several scenes with Mrs. McCormick wind up foreshadowing later events:
      • When we first meet Dominic, he's excited at finding a "stick with a hook" (a fishing gaff) and asks Pádraic what it's used for. Mrs. McCormick is shown carrying the gaff around in several scenes, and eventually uses it to fish Dominic's body out of the lake.
      • Siobhan spots Mrs. McCormick beckoning to her at the opposite end of a lake before being distracted by Dominic, the same lake Dominic ultimately drowns in.
      • She gives Pádraic a dire warning that "a death shall come to Inisherin, maybe even two deaths." Pádraic's donkey Jenny chokes to death on one of Colm's fingers, and Dominic drowns in a lake.
    • Pádraic observes the civil war going on on the mainland, with smoke rising from the fighting. his own conflict with Colm leads to a similar scene of smoke rising over the horizon from him burning his home.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Colm's increasingly extreme methods of trying to stop Pádraic from being his friend ultimately work out too well. By the end of the film, Pádraic has grown to loathe him enough to try to burn him alive in his home, and angrily rejects Colm's attempt to end their feud.
  • Hope Spot:
    • A minor example when Pádraic notices it's 1st of April and considers that Colm's hostility may have been an April Fool's joke. But no.
    • Pádraic bursts in to Colm's home later in the film.
      • After a tense exchange, they manage to have a civil conversation around Colm's music, which leaves Pádraic confident enough that their feud is over that he invites Colm to go to the pub with him. Once Pádraic has left the home, Colm immediately goes to fetch his shears and cuts off the remaining fingers on his left hand.
      • In the same scene, Colm's dog, seemingly sensing what is about to happen, tries to drag the shears away from Colm to prevent him from following through. Colm spots him before he's able to get out of the home and takes the shears back.
  • Implied Rape: Pádraic explicitly accuses Peadar of molesting Dominic. The implied part comes in to the fact that nobody - neither Dominic or Peadar - actually deny it.
    • Dominic's later line to Pádraic about "spilling the beans" about it seems to confirm it.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Colm appears to be visibly older than Pádraicnote .
  • Ironic Echo: In their final conversation before their feud takes a turn for the worse, Pádraic attempts to reconcile with Colm by holding out his hand for Colm to shake, only for Colm to look at the hand with a disgusted/confused expression and refuse the gesture, instead reiterating his desire for Pádraic to leave him alone. By the end, Colm is the one looking to shake Pádraic's hand and Pádraic is the one refusing the gesture, even looking at Colm's hand with the same disgusted/confused expression that Colm wore the last time Pádraic attempted it, and making it clear that he is no longer seeking Colm's friendship.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: The Irish Civil War is still on-going on mainland Ireland during the events of the movie, but Siobhan ultimately decides to take up a job offer there because the aimless mundanity of Inisherin would eventually destroy her spirit.
  • No Ending: The film ends with no conclusion to the central arc, Colm and Pádraic still not friends and with Pádraic making clear this isn't the end of their feud.
  • Not Hyperbole: People who hear it think Colm's threat to cut off one of his own fingers every time Pádraic talks to him is just exaggeration. It isn't. At all.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Colm tells Siobhan that he worries sometimes he's only staving off the inevitable before he dies, distracting himself. Siobhan refutes this, saying she doesn't feel the same way. Colm simply replies "yeah, you do."
  • One-Hour Work Week: Other than make a milk delivery, we don't see Pádraic doing any work, and he seems to spend most of his time lounging around or at the pub. He apparently quits whatever work he does do before 2 PM every day to hit the pub with Colm. For his part, it's never clear what Colm's profession even is. This only serves to emphasize how monotonous and uneventful life on Inisherin can be for the three leads. While Pádraic is initially content with it, the lack of fulfilment has worn down both Siobhan and Colm.
  • Parental Incest: The response to Pádraic accusing Peadar of molesting Dominic from everyone in the pub, but especially Peadar and Dominic themselves, imply that it's true.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Colm demonstrates a few times that he still cares about Pádraic even if he no longer wishes to be friends with him. He helps him drive his cart home after he suffers a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by Peadar, and when Peadar mocks Pádraic's dead donkey, Colm knocks him out cold.
    • While Siobhan openly dislikes Dominic, she still lets him down gently when he tries confessing his love for her.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The entire mess is kicked off by Colm one day deciding to completely cut Pádraic out of his life. Rather than actually explain to Pádraic from the beginning what the matter is and why he feels the way he does, he instead chooses to first completely ignore his former friend (which only makes Pádraic worry that he's done something wrong and desperate to make up for it) and then offers him the barest minimum in terms of an explanation along with a healthy dose of Stealth Insults, leading to Pádraic initially not taking him seriously and inadvertently causing the feud to escalate.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Pádraic starts the movie as a simple but nice man who is fairly content with his simple life with his friends and his sister. His feud with Colm slowly turns him into a more bitter person in his attempts to rekindle their friendship, and after Jenny chokes to death on one of Colm's fingers that he threw at Pádraic's door, he tells Colm that he is going to burn down his house in revenge, which he does. When Colm asks Pádraic if burning his house down makes them square, Pádraic says that it only would have made them square if Colm had stayed inside the burning house and died.
  • Rabid Cop: Peadar is a downplayed example. He does strike Pádraic in full view of the village and also expresses delight at being drafted in to assist with an execution on the mainland, though much of this is due to the expenses and free lunch he'll receive for it.
  • Replacement Goldfish: In the end, Pádraic has lost his friend, his sister, and his pet donkey. He takes to allowing his cow and horse live in the house with him in a desperate attempt to stave off his crushing lonelines.
  • Running Gag: Pádraic wanting to let Jenny the donkey inside the house, while Siobhan forbids it.
  • Scenery Porn: Every outdoor shot features a stunning view of the cliffs, hills, and fields of Achill Island.
  • Small Town Boredom: Colm feels stifled by the island of Inisherin but can't bring himself to leave. Siobhan feels similarly, and eventually does leave.
  • There Are No Therapists: Justified. The inhabitants of Inisherin are all aware that something is wrong with Colm mentally, but being on a remote island off of mainland Ireland in the middle of a civil war in the 1920s, Colm has no easy access to any professional help to address it. For their part, the islanders would all prefer that Pádraic acquiesce to his request for solitude rather than press the issue.
  • Those Two Guys: The bartender Jonjo and one of the pub patrons, in tandem, comedically reassure Pádraic that he's in the right to be upset with Colm and that they're on his side throughout the film.
  • Title Drop: Colm decides to name one of the songs he has composed as the film's title. He and Pádraic even discuss how pithy The Banshees of Inisherin sounds with its repeating sh.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The poster depicts the final scene of the film where Pádraic confronts Colm after burning his house down.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo. Or, more accurately, Unrequited Friendship Switcheroo. At the end Colm, perhaps recognising that things have gone a bit too far, expresses a hope that the feud between them can be over, only for Pádraic to declare that it would only have ended if Colm had died in his burning house.
  • Voiceover Letter: From Siobhan to Pádraic, reporting that she's found a job and a good situation on the mainland and inviting him to join her. Then one from him back to her, rejecting this invitation to escape and saying he's staying on the island (and though he doesn't say so, for his revenge on Colm).
  • We Used to Be Friends: The entire plot is built around Colm suddenly deciding he no longer wants to be friends with Pádraic and the effects on both.
  • Wham Shot: Pádraic discovering Colm's finger on his doorstep, confirming just how serious he is about cutting him from his life. This marks a drastic shift in tone from "dark comedy" to "drama with occasional pitch-black humor."
  • World of Jerkass: Pádraic lies to Colm's music student about his father getting hit by a truck to make him go back to the mainland, Colm threatens to cut off his fingers if Pádraic keeps talking to him, and Paedar is abusive to his son Dominic. Even the priest shouts and swears at Colm after their first confessional.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Colm helps Pádraic onto his cart after the latter has been beaten up by Peadar, then climbs onto the cart himself and begins driving them home, even putting his arm around Pádraic's shoulders to keep him steady. Just when it seems as though Colm's willing to become friends again, he gets off the cart when Pádraic begins crying and leaves him to go the rest of the way on his own, making it clear that the feud isn't over in the slightest.

"Some things there's no movin' on from. And I think that's a good thing."