Colm Doherty: I just have this tremendous sense of time slipping away from 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.
Pádraic Súlleabhain: Are you dying?
Colm Doherty: No, I’m not dying.
Pádraic Súlleabhain: But then you’ve loads of time.
Colm Doherty: For chatting?
Pádraic Súlleabhain: Aye.
Colm Doherty: For aimless chatting?
Pádraic Súlleabhain: Not for aimless chatting. For good, normal chatting.
Colm Doherty: So, we’ll keep aimlessly chatting, and me life’ll keep dwindling. And in twelve years, I’ll die with nothing to show for it, bar the chats I’ve had with a limited man, is that it?
— Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
There’s a darkness in this film that is borne of desperation. The characters react to the bleak reality of their lives in different ways. Colm and Pádraic’s sister, Siobhan Súilleabháin, desperately seek something beyond their relentlessly trivial existence. Pádraic sees nothing at all wrong with living out his days one exactly the same as the one before. And this raises the central question of the film, one we all faced at the height of the pandemic: what are we actually doing with our time? Is this all there is for us, or might we create something meaningful that lives beyond us before we pass? These are questions many of us wrestle with, while others contentedly choose more of the same. We each reconcile our brief dance with the world in our own way.
These questions are timeless, even if we aren’t. Indeed, this temporary shelf life drives us to find answers. Our old friend Thoreau famously observed in the beginning pages of Walden that “the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation”. We bear the weight of these questions still, amplified by that realization that time is slipping away. Memento mori, friends. Carpe diem.
The thing is, we shouldn’t despair at the thought. There ought to be freedom in that realization. We have an opportunity to amplify our living, and make it resonate in our time. We have the opportunity to create something that lives beyond ourselves, something that ripples. Alternatively, we might simply live. Neither choice is wrong, unless we’re quietly telling ourselves it is. The answer for each of us is to listen carefully, and spend wisely.