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SPOILERS AHEAD

The Banshees of Inisherin ends somewhat cryptically with Padraic saying, "I’m sure they’ll be at it again soon enough, aren’t you? Some things there’s no movin’ on from. And I think that’s a good thing" in response to Colm's remark about the Irish Civil War likely ending soon.

This is confusing enough on its own; why would Padraic think endless wrangling is a good thing when it has brought him so much grief? But in light of the plot's mirroring of the Irish Civil War, what exactly is the film trying to suggest about (the) war with this line? Up to this point, the film's message seems straightforward (and almost too trite to help the film work as a full allegory): there can be no winner when brother fights against brother. But Padraic's final lines kind of obfuscate that for me.

In short, my question is, what does The Banshees of Inisherin's ending mean, especially with regard to the Irish Civil War?

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    I understand it's a complex subject, but all I want is people's thoughts on why the film (nearly) ends with the words "it's a good thing" in reference to endless conflict. I'm certain I'm either misunderstanding or missing something and just want some insight.
    – Binny
    Commented Jan 29, 2023 at 17:19

3 Answers 3

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The Banshees of Inisherin ends somewhat cryptically with Padraic saying, "I’m sure they’ll be at it again soon enough, aren’t you? Some things there’s no movin’ on from. And I think that’s a good thing"...

My first question to you is, is Padraic a reliable narrator? Has he gotten anything else right in the movie? Why do you think that suddenly he's speaking the truth?

Padraic is wrong about almost everything. He can't believe Colm's need to distance himself from him. When he's worried that people think him dim, tells his sister, "I'm as clever as you, anyway." When they wonder if Colm is depressed, he mutters, (I'm not sure of the exact words), "Why doesn't he push it down like everybody else and get on with it?" There's humor and pathos in Padraic's character. But he started out nice. In the end, he's lost (metaphorically killed, when he smashes the mirror) the best thing about himself: how really nice he was. And so, he cements his hatred with that last line; he'll never rest until one of them is dead.

The movie's characters and the ending reflect the pain that persists in the world, the terrible hurt accompanying broken relationships, but that's not really a good thing. It's sad. It destroys people and families and countries, just as the Irish Civil War pitted friend against friend. Padraic could have left the island with his sister, which would have been better than staying on an isolated island where little changes and he's bound to Colm by proximity and hatred. While there's lots of natural beauty on the island, there's little beauty of any other kind, which is why Padraic's sister left.

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First off, I think you're absolutely right that the common reading of the movie as an allegory for the Irish Civil War is too trite. I think the movie is about much more than "civil war is bad."

I believe the film uses heavy symbolism to tell the story of Padriac coming to terms with his best friend Colm's suicide, which occurs off-camera early in the movie. The evidence supporting this is gathered neatly in this Reddit post. Here are excerpts that shed light on the meaning of the dialogue in the final scene:

  • Colm ends their friendship on the grounds that Padraic is too boring, representing Padraic's first reaction to the suicide: he feels abandoned and blames himself for not being a good enough friend.
  • Padraic then refuses to obey Colm's rejection, representing him taking a hard look at his friend's life for the first time to figure out what really happened. He eventually realizes Colm wasn't just a happy fiddle-playing drinking buddy but was seriously wounded by depression (the severed fingers).
  • These wounds drove Colm to the suicide, of which their friendship was unintended collateral damage (the donkey choking on the fingers).

All of this symbolic meaning comes together beautifully in the final scene on the beach:

  • Padraic has finally achieved a sort of acceptance of the loss of his best friend (burying the dead donkey). He realizes Colm didn't mean to end their friendship ("I’m sorry about your donkey, Padraic. Honestly I am.")

  • At the same time, Padraic knows he'll never completely get over it ("Some things, there’s no moving on from. And I think that’s a good thing.")

  • And then with the closing line, Colm ties it all back to the beginning, confirming what really happened off-camera early in the movie. "Padraic?" he says. "Thanks for looking after me dog for me, anyway."

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    There is IMHO nothing in the movie which supports this, unless you regard all the events in the movie as "something Padraic completely imagines". It isn't something that seems to be the director's style either. Plus plenty of the events in the movie make no sense in this interpretation, e.g. the prediction by that old woman/"banshee", Dominic's story (which is foreshadowed), etc.
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 10:34
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    @BCdotWEB - I have answers to how the prediction and Dominic story fit my interpretation. But staying on topic here, I'll just note that the civil war interpretation does not explain much of the movie, particularly the repeated references to Colm's despair -- and it only explains the first part of Padraic's closing lines ("Some things there’s no movin’ on from") but not the second "and I think that's a good thing." Overall I think there are multiple stories going on in this movie.
    – Shiz Z.
    Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 19:19
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I think you need to interpret "that’s a good thing" not as an approval of the civil war, but as an acknowledgement that festering conflict will inevitably reemerge in the future unless you deal with the underlying issues.

This is mirrored by how Pádraic deals with Colm's break-up with him: he isn't satisfied with the initial "just leave me alone" dismissal and probes Colm until the latter explains why he doesn't want to talk to Pádraic anymore.

And then he still tried to repair the broken relationship in all kinds of ways, including the seemingly counter-intuitive solution of standing up to Colm after hearing from Dominic that Colm expressed some admiration for that attitude after he did so drunkenly. Which of course leads to a further deterioration of the situation.


The superficial solution would be: just leave Colm alone. But this is negatively impacting Pádraic, not in the least since the island's small surface makes it hard for him to avoid his former friend. Moreover, he sees Colm having a wonderful time with other people and even "invaders" (the musician from the mainland).

Of note is that Pádraic has changed over the course of the events in the movie:

Pádraic and Colm’s feud is empathically not over in The Banshees of Inisherin ending. While he is unhinged enough to cut off his fingers for the sake of gaining some space from Pádraic, Colm shows real remorse for the first time when he learns that he accidentally caused Jenny’s death. This, along with losing his house to a fire, leads Colm to assume that he and Pádraic are now even. However, Pádraic's character has also undergone a meaningful shift, abandoning the niceness that defined him at the beginning of the film. In The Banshees of Inisherin’s ending, Pádraic decides on mutually assured destruction over peace.

While Colm hopes to secure a musical legacy for himself by getting some distance from his former friend, he ends up instead igniting a feud that seems as if it will kill both of them — in stark contrast to the idyllic setting The Banshees of Inisherin establishes in the beginning. Indeed, while Pádraic started The Banshees of Inisherin blissfully unaware of the limitations of his small-town existence, he ends the movie’s story as a spiteful, hate-fueled figure who has no interest in reconciling with Colm. Although the pair have held onto their shared humanity — as evidenced in the tragicomic moment where Colm thanks Pádraic for taking care of his dog and Pádraic assures him it was no problem — their relationship is irretrievably destroyed. With neither man making any plans to leave the island, the feud between the two is bound to just get worse and worse.


The article I linked also offers more on how the movie mirrors what happened in the civil war:

To understand The Banshees of Inisherin’s ending, the historical and cultural context of its setting is important. The film is set in 1923, at the height of the Irish civil war, on a fictional Irish island whose name translates to “the island of Ireland.” While Irish literature, poetry, and music from a few years earlier rightfully celebrated and immortalized the triumphant defeat of English colonial rule in Ireland, works that mythologized the ensuing civil war were few and far between. There was nothing beautiful, uplifting, or awe-inspiring about a war that split families and pitted friends against each other, which also helps pinpoint exactly when The Banshees of Inisherin takes place.

This is reflected in the movie:

The Banshees of Inisherin sees Colm try to cement an artistic legacy for himself by abandoning niceness, but this leads Pádraic to note that Colm hypocritically sees nothing wrong with befriending a child-abusing corrupt cop while refusing to speak to Pádraic because he is “dull.” By the end of The Banshees of Inisherin, Colm longs for a return to the dullness of his former friendship, no longer enamored with romantic ideals of suffering now that he has lost his fingers and his home to a pointless battle of wills.

However, Colm and Pádraic can’t go back, as like the country they are so close to, they are now divided by their differences, locked in a fight that will eventually cost them their lives. The character's drastic but believable evolution underscores why Pádraic is among Colin Farrell's best movie roles. In The Banshees of Inisherin’s ending, Colm gets the terrible beauty, artistic inspiration, and deep meaning he was searching for, but it comes at the cost of his friendship with Pádraic, his home, and, ironically, even the ability to play the mournful music he so loves.

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    I'm not sure that there's anything implied by the writer/director about resolving underlying issues. McDonach sees (in his other movies as well) the inherent pain that accompanies relationships. There are no happy endings in his movies, probably because that's his point. Humans are broken and in all broken relationships, there's real, relatable pain experienced on both sides. If McDonach believed in the redemption of relationships by dealing with underlying issues, I think that would be clear in some of his movies. Commented Jan 30, 2023 at 18:23

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