On the surface, Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin may not seem like much of a horror movie. And yet it elicits the same kind of what-the-fuck-did-I-just-watch reaction that any horror film addressing the horrors of mortality, abandonment, and the aftermath of a bad breakup in the forms of dismemberment, revenge, arson, and maybe even a little murder might conjure.

Imagine wanting to end a time-honored friendship with someone because you’ve realized you just don’t like them anymore. Maybe you never really did. The catch is that you’re living in a remote coastal location in the 1920s with one community pub central to everyone’s social lives. Oh, and you’re not exactly good with confrontation, either. This is Colm’s predicament in The Banshees of Inisherin. The film starts at the end, with Colm (Brendan Gleeson) smoking a cigarette, blatantly ignoring Pádraic (Colin Farrell) and his invitation to grab an afternoon pint.

At this point, Pádraic seems like a nice enough guy, certainly worthy of Colm’s acknowledgment and not this uncomfortable cold shoulder action he’s giving instead. This is before we find out that Pádraic is kind of dull. Pádraic can tell a story about everything in his donkey’s shit, a tale that can take two hours to tell without ever going anywhere. And Pádraic has to have the last word.

Marisa G. Franco, Ph.D., notes for Psychology Today that friendship breakups are tricky because we don’t get the same permission to process grief around a friendship that we might get around other types of loss. “We struggle to reconcile how we feel toward the loss with how society says we should feel,” Franco writes. “We grieve in community; others acknowledge the weight of our loss, and it helps us heal. But when they don’t–we develop disenfranchised grief that lingers.”

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It took several rewatches to come to this conclusion because I know I have a bit of Pádraic’s fire in me. Friends have come and gone, and there were endings I was bitter about because the friendships weren’t good, so their natural conclusions – dramatic or not – were disappointing and unsurprising. Sometimes we use people to pass the time while giving them every opportunity to prove us wrong.

I’m not the arbiter of failed friendships. I’ve done perfectly shitty things that would make anyone think me unworthy of the company I keep. But I’ve also been in Colm’s position, so the more I watch The Banshees, the more I empathize with his predicament. As a creator, one of the most soul-crushing experiences is to be void of creativity and lacking inspiration. When Colm stops pretending to enjoy Pádraic’s company, he realizes he has more time to dedicate to composing music. To Colm’s credit, he tries to explain this to Pádraic, which results in Pádraic telling him not to bother with it because “it’s a shite tune anyways.”

“I just have this tremendous sense of time slipping away on me, Pádraic, and I think I need to spend the time I have left thinking and composing, just trying not to listen to any more of the dull things that you have to say for yourself, but I’m sorry about it,” Colm tells Pádraic after the initial breakup. The horrific atmosphere that envelops The Banshees isn’t Pádraic’s reckoning with the five stages of grief, rather, it’s wanting to make something of your time on Earth, realizing that not everyone wants that for you, and the million dollar question — are you even good enough?

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It’s genuinely painful to watch Pádraic taunt Colm throughout the film’s second act after Colm communicates his boundaries and threatens to inflict harm upon himself if Pádraic does not oblige. While Pádraic antagonizes endlessly, Colm is trying to compose a song on his fiddle. Colm is willing to sacrifice “aimless chatter” for a few more years of peace. For Colm, peace is the time and energy he hopes to spend creating something that will outlast himself.

But there’s also something terrifying about the inside of a creative person’s mind when they have the time and space to create but not the belief in themself. Perhaps that’s some of what’s at the heart of Colm’s willingness to cut off his left pointer finger with a pair of gardening shears. “Well, that won’t help your fucking music,” Pádraic’s sister Siobhán tells Colm, to which he replies, “We’re getting somewhere now.”

Colm remains self-assured in his decision to end things with Pádraic, but he expresses plenty of remorse, which speaks to something difficult to remember when we’re being dumped. Not everyone who ends a relationship wants to hurt the other person. They just want to move on with their lives, and be left alone to do so. Suffocation can also lead people to take drastic actions against themselves.

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Unfortunately, it’s rare to grow beyond a person without the stagnant person on the receiving end being cool with it. So we can’t entirely fault Pádraic for feeling confused and seeking out confrontations, especially after Colm cuts off his four remaining fingers and throws them at Pádraic’s front door. The severed fingers of a former friend, paired with his sister’s decision to leave the island and Colm cutting out Pádraic’s donkey’s tongue, lead him to spend the third act figuring out what an eye for an eye looks like if canine murder is off the table.

Enter, arson. Burn his house down! McDonagh takes the story to unexpected places, and Pádraic accepts that Colm has become his worst enemy. Colm, who spends the film fearing mortality, decides to leave his burning home, choosing a life without purpose over death at the hands of his ex-best friend.

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The grief that comes from being entangled in a best friend breakup has received more recognition societally as a thing that exists, but it continues to remain a largely underrepresented phenomenon in the media. Some of the best films in this category come from the horror genre. There’s The Descent for when your husband cheats on you with your best friend or Super Dark Times for when you quickly figure out your childhood friend is growing into psychopathic tendencies. And, of course, there’s the friend who wasn’t really ever a good friend to begin with —Jennifer Check of Jennifer’s Body, played to mean girl perfection by Megan Fox. If none of these recommendations satisfy you, there’s always Evil Dead, where the friends were by all accounts fine until they turned into Deadites.

It’s terrifying to wake up one day and realize your best friend doesn’t like you anymore. It’s even more terrifying when they dismember themselves and kill your donkey. Even more so to want to end a one-sided friendship with someone who refuses to let you go — and then sets your house on fire.

Let’s call this film what it is, an Oscar-nominated horror film with elements of black comedy. We’d like to thank the Academy. A rose by any other name…

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