The Banshees Of Inisherin Ending Explained: Despair, Friendship And A Metaphor For Civil War
Let's laugh as we cry about Jenny and breakups.
The Banshees of Inisherin is an almost fable-like story of two friends experiencing a breakup. One totally closes the door to their friendship, while the other desperately tries to hold on to it. Desperation from both sides leads to bloodshed, ruined lives, and a civil war between them. It almost reaches the same level of devastation as many of the best war movies. The Banshees of Inisherin ending encompasses all the pain and suffering into a dramatic conclusion that really highlights some of the themes of the movie.
The Banshees of Inisherin is a haunting film that deserves its praise and awards, including several 2023 Academy Award nominations. It’s one of Colin Farrell’s best performances and reminds us why Brendan Gleeson is such a phenomenal actor. This is also one of his best roles. The film has fantastic performances by the entire cast, but it’s The Banshees of Inisherin story that really leaves a lasting impression.
Let’s examine that ending and what it all means. Big spoilers ahead, obviously!
What Happened At The End Of The Banshees Of Inisherin?
Siobhán (Kerry Condon) leaves Pádraic (Colin Farrell) to go work on the mainland. A devastated Pádraic then finds out that his donkey, Jenny, choked on one of Colm’s (Brendan Gleeson) severed fingers. Pádraic decides to seek revenge by burning down Colm’s home.
He goes to the local pub and tells Colm about his plans. Pádraic tells Colm that he won’t check to make sure he left when he starts the fire.
As he sets the fire, he sees Colm sitting in it smoking — seemingly ready to embrace his demise. After setting Colm’s home on fire, Siobhán writes to Pádraic telling him about her life on the mainland. She pleads with him to join her there.
He writes back giving her an update on what’s going on in Inisherin, including Dominic’s (Barry Keoghan) body being recovered from the lake. However, he omits the part about Jenny dying and him setting Colm’s home on fire.
While walking on the beach, Pádraic discovers that Colm is not dead. Colm hopes that losing his home makes them even, but Pádraic says there is no coming back from any of it.
As Pádraic walks away, Colm thanks him for taking care of his dog. Pádraic responds with “any time.”
The Death Of A Good Guy
The Banshees of Inisherin shows how the sweet and nice Pádraic is broken down so much that he becomes jaded. Not only does he lose his sense of hope and happiness, but he loses everyone he cares about. Siobhán leaves, Jenny dies, Dominic dies, and Colm makes their relationship impossible.
In an interview with the Academy, Colin Farrell talks about how at the end of the movie, Pádraic becomes someone who believes in violence and doesn’t even think it needs a justification. He talks about him becoming cruel and cursed — a stark contrast from the Pádraic at the start of the film.
Unfortunately, this feels like a realistic transition. In life, no matter how nice or sweet or innocent someone starts out as, eventually everyone gets a little darker, a little jaded. It’s about not losing yourself completely due to the devastation that comes with life.
Pádraic completely allows his pain and loneliness to consume him. However, he also accepts this fate. Siobhán offers him another life and a new beginning, but he decides to stay on the small island, staying lonely and isolated. Life turns him dark, but he chooses to embrace it instead of trying another option. This makes The Banshees of Inisherin one of the saddest movies about friendship.
How The Banshees Of Inisherin Talks About Despair And Mortality
The Banshees of Inisherin is a movie about actual death and metaphorical death. In many interviews, director and writer Martin McDonagh describes his film as a breakup movie, including in an Indiewire interview. The Banshees of Inisherin is one of the best breakup movies for how it captures the pain of the dumpee and the dumper. However, the conversation about mortality and finding a purpose is just as important to the DNA of this movie.
Colm decides to end things with Pádraic because he realizes that he’s getting older and doesn’t want to leave this world without contributing something to it, especially in the form of art. He also doesn’t want to waste his time. He has a very real human fear. Colm is also coping with his own sense of despair and depression. Brendan Gleeson talks about this in an interview with GoldDerby.
He talks about Colm mutilating himself as just one example of his suicidal nature. There are also plenty of other moments that we see Colm grappling with depression, including his confessionals and even at the end of The Banshees of Inisherin. Because he stays in his burning home. He accepts death.
However, something makes him decide against it because he is alive at the movie's end. Colm isn’t the only character who deals with the possibility of a bleak future.
Pádraic loses so much, and probably also sees an empty and lonely future. He knows that he may face a future, and eventual death, completely alone. The same thing may have happened to Dominic.
Dominic has been the victim of years of abuse but seemingly has also held on to some dreams and hope. He gets a double punch of reality when he realizes that Pádraic has changed and is becoming just as dark as the rest of the town. He also loses his dream of being with Siobhán.
It is not confirmed if Dominic slips into the water or dies by suicide. However, I think it’s the latter. When Siobhán leaves, she also reacts to someone also watching her leave. It could be Mrs. McCormick (Sheila Flitton) — which is highly likely — or it could be Dominic. Either way, that moment signals that death is on its way, and that is Dominic's death. My theory is that Dominic also took a look at his future and saw nothing more than loneliness, abuse, and despair. Instead of embracing that darkness, he decides to die.
Dominic’s pain is kind of glossed over because he’s kind of the fool character, the comic relief, but he’s going through even more turmoil than most of the characters. He may see death as his only escape from despair.
The Civil War Metaphor
Originally when I first finished watching The Banshees of Inisherin, I exclaimed “it’s an allegory for the Irish Civil War!” However, Martin McDonagh definitely has allegorical Irish Civil War elements but calling the movie an allegory for the Irish Civil War is not exactly right. When asked about it in a Uproxx interview, he denied directly tying certain moments in the movie to historical events during the Irish Civil War.
However, McDonagh doesn’t deny that the conflict between Colm and Pádraic metaphorically ties into the idea of conflict and war, especially between former allies or countrymen. Towards the beginning of The Banshees of Inisherin, Pádraic looks towards the war in the distance and says, “good luck to ye, whatever it is you’re fighting about.” That basically sums up the war between Colm and Pádraic.
The reason for it starts to matter less than the war itself. The fight is more important than the results or the reasoning. There is plenty of bloodshed and deaths as a direct and indirect result of their conflict. Siobhán ultimately decides to leave because she refuses to watch how far things go. In an interview with Datebook, Martin McDonagh talks about how he wanted to mirror this conflict with the civil war.
The actual ending basically has Pádraic declaring a lifelong war with Colm, who seems full of regret for what he has done and turned his friend into. However, it does end with a slight glimmer of hope. Colm thanks him for taking care of his dog, and despite himself, Pádraic gives him a warm response.
These small gestures signal some hope. Pádraic and Colm may at least find a way to be civil with each other. It’s not the most hopeful movie ending, but there is some hope there, even if it’s buried under all the ashes.
The Banshees of Inisherin is currently available to stream on HBO Max. It’s one of the many 2023 Oscars Best Picture nominees available to stream. It’s one of the best movies of 2022, so definitely a must-watch.
Stream The Banshees of Inisherin on HBO Max. (opens in new tab)
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Spent most of my life in various parts of Illinois, including attending college in Evanston. I have been a life long lover of pop culture, especially television, turned that passion into writing about all things entertainment related. When I'm not writing about pop culture, I can be found channeling Gordon Ramsay by kicking people out the kitchen.