Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Banshees of Inisherin (2022).Martin McDonagh’s latest film Banshees of Inisherin is earning rave reviews and won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Picture, but the secret meaning behind the title isn’t necessarily clear on first viewing – so what are Inisherin’s banshees? The film reunites In Bruges co-stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson with the screenwriter and director of the cult hit, Martin McDonagh. Like In Brugesthe film is a dark comedy that ends up taking a violent turn in its closing stretch.


Banshees of Inisherin tells the story of an escalating feud between Farrell’s sweet Pádraic and his former friend, Gleeson’s Colm, when the latter suddenly decides he doesn’t want to talk to the former. Batman‘s new joker Barry Keoghan plays Dominic, a local boy who helps Pádraic find out why Colm isn’t his friend anymore, while Kerry Condon plays Pádraic’s annoyed sister Siobhán. Despite the comedy-drama title, there are no literal banshees about the Inisherin in McDonagh’s film. But Colm composes a song by that name, and a local old woman, Mrs. McCormack, acts as a baner of death and plays the role of a non-supernatural banshee equivalent. But what are the banshees of the Inisherin? Here is That Banshees of the Inisherin title meaning explained.

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Banshees of Inisherin title explained

IN Banshees of Inisherin, Pádraic briefly reconciles with Colm when he asks his former friend, an accomplished musician, about the new song he’s working on. Colm tells him the song is called “Banshees of Inisherin” and museums that banshees (Irish mythological figures whose excruciating howls warned of impending death) may be real. But Colm says that if banshees are real, they might not even bother howling to warn of death anymore, and might simply stand by to watch people pass away. Pádraic doesn’t understand what Colm is talking about, but that’s why the song “The Banshees of Inisherin” isn’t played in the Martin McDonagh film in its entirety. Therefore, this is the best answer to “what are Inisherin’s banshees?”.

While the film is set on the small island of Inisherin during the Irish Civil War, it should be noted that Inisherin is not an actual place. Rather, the film was shot in two separate locations. First, Martin McDonagh’s film was shot on Inis Mor, the largest island in the Aran Islands archipelago off the west coast of Ireland. The area is known for religious sites, coastal views and monuments, and the location often serves as a backdrop for Pádraic and Colm’s conversations. The other location Achill, Ireland, which is also off the west coast, although it is connected to the mainland by the bridge. These two places make up the where setting Banshees of Inisherin was filmed.

Why Colm’s song is not heard in the film

Banshees of Inishirin ending explained

Despite Colm seemingly wanting distance from Pádraic so he can work on his music and cement his legacy as a violinist, viewers never hear Banshees of Inisherin in its entirety during the film. This allows Banshees of Inisherin‘s story to debunk Colm’s belief that isolation, wallowing in despair and navel-gazing is the root of meaningful art and self-expression. Early in their feud, Colin Farrell’s character points out to Colm that acting less friendly and more aloof is not a channel for making better or more impactful music. Banshees of Inisherin proves Pádraic right by not showcasing Colm’s song.

Instead, Banshees of Inisherin focuses on Colm’s gruesome acts of self-mutilation, with the character cutting off a finger every time Pádraic tries to talk to him. This unhinged action ironically means that it is possible Joker 2 Jim Gordon Brendan Gleeson’s Colm is unable to play his instrument by the end of the comedy-drama film, while Pádraic is obliged to continue their feud until his former friend is dead. IN Banshees of InisherinColm’s music has no staying power, but his decision to end a friendship has a dramatic, ultimately fatal knock-on effect.

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Is Mrs. McCormack really a Banshee?

Mrs McCormack in The Banshees of Inisherin

The elderly Mrs. McCormack is depicted as a curious old woman in Banshees of Inisherin opening. But as things progress, her character takes on a more sinister meaning. She warns Pádraic that there will be a death or two on the island before the month is out, sadistically implying that Pádraic or Siobhán (or both) may die. While Pádraic and Siobhán survive, the fact that Dominic and Pádraic’s pet pony Jenny dies means that Mrs McCormack was ultimately right. However, this does not make the old woman Inisherin’s eponymous banshee – nor does the eerie sight of her summoning Siobhán from across the lake.

Mrs. McCormack is another example of Banshees of Inisherin‘s story depicting self-fulfilling prophecies. Her prediction is vague enough that it is almost guaranteed to come true (especially if animal deaths are included). Meanwhile, the way she taunts Pádraic exacerbates his paranoia and drives him deeper into his feud with Colm, resulting in the confrontation that indirectly leads to Jenny’s death. Thus is the title on Banshees of Inisherin the title refers not to a creepy supporting character or Colm’s song, but rather to the way the island’s parochial culture brings mistrust, violence and eventual tragedy.

Was The Banshees Of Inisherin Based On A True Story?

Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan The Banshees of Inisherin

While the answer to “what are the banshees of the Inisherin?” may remain elusive, many are curious if the film is based on a true story. It turns out that the Golden Globe winner is a complete work of fiction, but Martin McDonagh did pull from a lot of real-life history to create its setting. Banshees of Inisherin set against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, explosions can often be heard from the island and are even commented on by characters on occasion. The 1923 setting shows that the conflict had been going on for about a year at that point. The war itself is cleverly mirrored in the war between Pádraic and Colm, who were once as close as brothers and turned violent enemies. That’s a telling thing Banshees of Inisherin takes place during a real-life civil war, as the events that unfold between the two friends reflect this setting on a much smaller scale.

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