The Banshees Of Inisherin laments Pádraic and Colm’s broken friendship but also celebrates it by showing just how toxic it was in the first place. The film is a brutal takedown of the ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ that most women identify with. Except in the film, a man is at the receiving end of it.
Set in a fictional Irish island in 1920s when the Irish Civil War was nearing its end, The Banshees Of Inisherin begins with a montage of green meadows, sunless seascapes and gray skies as a folk song plays in the background. Inisherin is sparsely populated. It has Irish pubs where musicians play folk songs as they gulp pints of beer. A post office where the postmaster spends most of her time gossiping about the townsfolk, a mandatory visit to Church on Sundays and animals (cattle, donkeys, mules) grazing. The Banshees Of Inisherin is an ode to broken friendships and the struggle to accept that a relationship has run its course. “I’ve changed. I just don’t have a place for dullness in my life anymore”, says Colm, who has severed ties with his friend and longtime drinking buddy, Pádraic. Colm has clearly outgrown the friendship and wishes to move on to greener pastures, or in this case, greener meadows. Pádraic meanwhile cannot accept that Colm, who would meet him at the pub when the clock struck 12 and have pints of beer with him, no longer desires his company.
Distraught over the broken friendship, Pádraic has what closely resembles an identity crisis where he is constantly questioning his self-worth. “Am I too dull? Am I too dim?” Pádraic asks his sister Siobhán who tries her best to lie so her brother doesn’t get a dose of brutal honesty. But there’s only so much she can do to conceal her tone and expressions which are a dead giveaway on how she feels about Pádraic. Pádraic, instead of handling rejection well and moving on to find a new company, stalks Colm. Pádraic’s stalking and borderline obsession leads him to bribe the Church priest to get a confession out of Colm. Sick of Pádraic’s persistence, Colm warns him to keep distance by threatening him with self-harm. Both Pádraic and Colm are examples of men who should be in therapy. While one cannot handle rejection, the other uses self-harm to drive home a point. Of course, on a deeper level, Pádraic and Colm’s friendship is a metaphor for the Irish Civil War of 1923 where both sides, in an effort to drive home a point, end up destroying themselves. On the surface level, Pádraic and Colm’s friendship is literally how many toxic friendships and romantic relationships play out today.
The Banshees Of Inisherin laments Pádraic and Colm’s estrangement but also celebrates it by showing just how toxic their bond was in the first place. The film is a brutal takedown of the ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ that most women identify with except in the film, a man is at the receiving end of it. Pádraic often demands the sympathy of those around him — sister Siobhán, his friend Dominic and even the Church priest by claiming he is a ‘nice guy’ and that he lost a friend only because he is ‘dull and boring’. The ‘nice guy’ facade washes quickly when we see Pádraic lie to a fiddler about his father’s death so he can spend more time with Colm. In Dominic’s words, “it is the meanest thing he has ever heard”. Dominic, who felt Pádraic was the ‘nicest of them all’, says ‘you are just the same as them’. Perhaps, ‘nice guys’ are nice only as long as they get something in return failing which, they are the meanest of all. The film humanizes Pádraic to an extent by showing him questioning his self-worth. Don’t we all feel insecure at times when someone turns down our friendship? But Pádraic harbours this insecurity till it consumes him and makes him into what is best described as a stalker forcing an explanation out of someone who has clearly refused his company. At what point does insecurity turn into obsession and therefore self-destruction?