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It is hard to put Martin McDonagh's The Banshees of Inisherin into a genre box or give a simple explanation of what it is about. It has comedic elements but also dark drama. It is a strong character study.

There are plenty of themes than an audience can take from it. And plenty of dramatic things happen.

Plenty of the plot and action centres around the two lead characters, Pádraic and Colm (played by Farrell and Gleeson).

But the secondary character, Dominic (played by Barry Keoghan) has a notable role. He is a friend of the lead pair and incites at least some of their sparring. He is the son of the island's policeman. But he is abused by his father in more than one way. First he steals some of his fathers alcohol and gets a beating for that. When the fact of the beating is reported by Pádraic to other islanders, he incurs a beating from the policeman who further punishes his son as well. In a later drunken rant, Pádraic also accuses the father of "fiddling" with his son (without, apparently, having been told by Dominic) But this appears to be true.

Later we see some of Dominic's despair that he can't attract any of the women on the island to pay attention to him, partially because he is regarded as a fool (though we also see hints that his he is far cleverer than his public persona makes him appear).

Close to the end of the movie, he dies by drowning in the local lake. But we don't have any hints as to why or how.

Was he murdered to avoid further shaming his father? Did he commit suicide from despair? What point is the audience supposed to draw from his death?

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  • His suicide is obviously foreshadowed earlier on in the movie, by his father's mention of another young guy's suicide by drowning in the lake and by his obsession with the hooked staff which the "banshee" at the end uses to retrieve his body from the lake.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 13:42

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The conflict between Pádraic and Colm although not a direct allegory is perhaps a shadow of the civil war taking place at the same time. Two neighbours who once stood together find themselves at each other throats committing horrible acts against people who were once their friend.

I believe Dominic’s death was either an accident or suicide (probably the later but no way of knowing), with the point of either option being that he was forgotten, reports of his abuse both physical and sexual were ignored by everyone. The islanders and the audience’s attention is on the conflict between Pádraic and Colm. His dad spends the night going after Pádraic because of the fire before being led to his son's body. I think this speaks to the civilians who died directly or indirectly because of the war. Even if the war between Pádraic and Colm didn’t end up with either of them dying, their conflict potentially led to the death of an innocent man(and donkey).

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It is a suicide.

The most significant clue is what Dominic says after being rejected by Siobhan: "Well I’d best go over there and do whatever that thing over there I was going to do was."

In the moment it seems like he is just rambling, but in hindsight the comment confirms his suicidal intent.

As for the symbolic significance... Dominic was one of the story's true victim. Colm and Padraic each felt like victims, but Dominic's suicide put the other two's problems into perspective. All four main characters were unhappy, and Dominic's choice of action contrasted with that of Colm and Padraig who chose interpersonal squabbling, and of Siobhan who left for better things.

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    I think that particular line is not strong evidence of suicidal intent. It sounds to me completely ambiguous which is why I asked the question, hoping for clearer clues.
    – matt_black
    Commented Jan 31, 2023 at 9:23
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Dominic’s death represents the death of “innocence” brought on by the in-fighting.

He no longer believes Pádraic is “nice” or thinks he can live a “normal” life (rejection by Siobhan and exposure as being sexually abused by his dad).

The parallelism between the death announced by his father at the store, the father’s eagerness to witness “death” makes me wonder if his father killed him (?). Perhaps it doesn’t matter … the point is that, in the stupidity of war, everyone loses more than is gained.

My favorite artist fled Russia after the war began.

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