Martin McDonagh’s ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a break-up movie. It starts with Colm telling Pádraic, who, until now, was his best friend, that they shouldn’t be friends anymore. There is no explanation at first, and Pádraic, just like his sister and every other person on the island, just can’t understand how he had been dull all this while, and it is only starting to bother Colm now. Pádraic tries to mend their relationship, adopting different tricks and strategies to knock some sense into Colm. But things only get more drastic with his every attempt, until finally, everything seems to be lost. What does the ending spell for them? Will they become friends again? Let’s find out. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Are Pádraic and Colm Friends Again in the End?
Pádraic and Colm spent their entire lives on the island of Inisherin. There was never much to do on it and they stuck to the same schedule of doing their chores, meeting at the pub, having a pint, and talking about mundane things related to their lives. One day, however, Colm woke up to the truth that life was only getting shorter. He realized that he hadn’t done anything that would make people remember him long after he was gone. He would be forgotten and so would his life, so he decided to do something about it.
The problem with Colm’s decision was that it directly affected his best friend’s life. Pádraic had always been a simple man, and unlike Colm and his own sister, he never really thought about the greater meaning of things that he could strive for. He was nice and that was enough to be remembered for. Colm, on the other hand, couldn’t bear to have another useless conversation with Pádraic. It was all simply a waste of time, and with only a handful of years remaining in his life, he couldn’t afford to do that.
Colm’s reasoning behind breaking up with Pádraic was to completely devote himself to the goal of leaving behind something that lasts. In one scene, he tells Pádraic that people don’t last. They are soon forgotten, but the art that they make lives longer than them. Having wasted his entire life doing nothing on Inisherin, he wants to dedicate whatever time he has left to creating music, something that he has always loved but never given the attention that he should have.
Pádraic finds it difficult to understand how making music and their friendship are related. He does everything he can to befriend Colm again, but by the end, things get so terribly damaged between them that it becomes evident that there will be no going back now. In the final scene, we find both Pádraic and Colm near his house, where Colm, with all his fiddle-playing fingers cut off, softens towards his old friend. However, by now, Pádraic has lost everything that he had held dear and he blames it all on Colm.
For Pádraic, things started to go downhill when Colm lost his mind and broke off their friendship out of the blue. If it wasn’t for Colm’s stubbornness and his mad rage, then things would have stayed as is, just like Pádraic wanted them to be. If Colm hadn’t cut off his fingers and thrown them outside Pádraic’s house, then his donkey, Jenny, wouldn’t have eaten and choked on it. He would still have his beloved donkey, which Colm knew meant the world to Pádraic.
It is also after Colm’s senseless turn of events that Siobhan leaves for the mainland. Though Pádraic knows that she is doing it for herself, he can’t help but relate the timing with what happened between him and Colm. It is also in his quest to reunite with his best friend that Pádraic sends away Colm’s new friend by lying to him about his father. It was a mean thing to do, which Pádraic would have never done (because he was “nice”) if it wasn’t for Colm. It even drives away Dominic, who was the only remaining friend of Pádraic by this time.
So, even after Pádraic has burned down Colm’s house, he will stick to his pledge. They are going to take this row to their graves. His stance is stricter as compared to Colm’s because this decision was forced upon him. For Colm, it was a choice to break up with Pádraic. Still, there were moments when he softened, like when Pádraic is beaten up by Dominic’s father and when he finds out about Jenny. For Pádraic, however, the effort to make up with Colm took everything away from him. It pushed him to be the person that he never wanted to be and made him revisit his thoughts about Colm, wondering if he was ever the nice person that Pádraic thought him to be.
Pádraic’s hatred towards Colm is also revealed by the fact that even after he finds Colm sitting inside the burning house, he doesn’t make any effort to save him or even call out to him. He doesn’t second-guess his violence. He has also become indifferent towards their friendship now (though not so much towards their animosity) that he doesn’t talk about what he did or anything at all about Colm in the letter that he writes to Siobhan.
There is no doubt about the fact that there is still some part of Pádraic that has some affection for Colm. After all, he comes back the next day to find out if Colm was alive or not. However, the fact that Colm didn’t die in the fire might fan his anger toward him all the more. He shows no signs of reconciliation in their final conversation. As he walks away, we find Mrs. McCormick looking at them from a distance. Interestingly, she is placed right in the middle, with Colm and Pádraic on either side. The old woman’s presence also adds confirmation of the death of their friendship.
Throughout the film, we find Mrs. McCormick, who is called a ghoul by Siobhan and Dominic, in the most interesting places. She also predicts two deaths in Inisherin, and her whole persona makes her look like a banshee, who as Colm says at one point, now sits back and observes rather than howling about the impending disaster. Her looming presence in the final shot featuring Pádraic and Colm gives us a sense that things have ended for good between them. They have reached a point of no return, with both having done very awful things to each other, and it is highly unlikely that they’ll be the best of friends again.