We watched “The Banshees of Inisherin” (at the top of the movie watching shortlist I shared earlier this week) a few days ago and I was deeply moved by it. The movie tells the story of two friends in a remote Irish town in the 1920s, and the sad and complicated ripple effect of one’s abrupt decision that he no longer wants to be a part of their friendship. There is a lot to digest in the film, which toggles jarringly but deftly between humor and tragedy, and there are enough references to Ancient Greek theater (masks, the figure of the elderly female “fate”) to suggest that we are talking in tropes, treading on the allegorical. There are deep wells from which to draw when contemplating the historical setting of the movie (just after Ireland had become a nation-state and launched its seemingly eternal civil war), the motif of depression (self-isolation, self-injury, etc), and the complexities of male relationships/friendships (one of my friends smartly observed: “you don’t see or hear much about male friendships in contemporary culture”). But I was principally fixated on the way the movie put pressure on contemporary mores around self-centricity. It feels to me as though the current zeitgeist implores me to put my own needs first from a mental wellness standpoint. Protect your energy; set boundaries; know what you need to recharge; don’t be afraid of saying no or asking for what you need; etc. I have subscribed to all of these with alacrity, and have reinforced them many times on this blog, too. But I have long felt flustered at the blurry line between “taking care of myself” and acknowledging that I am also a part of my community, and that sometimes, people lean on us in ways that — though taxing — represent opportunities to do the right thing. I am thinking specifically of a lopsided friendship from my past: a girlfriend who needed me more than I needed her. It feels callous to write that out, and perhaps I was (am) blind to the ways in which she enriched my life, but that is how I felt. For years, I accommodated her. I traveled with her; I said “yes” to invitations; I answered her calls and texts. But I felt that I was performing the friendship much of the time, and that truth — though difficult to write — sat uncomfortably with me. At some point, life grew increasingly complicated and the amount of time I had for that relationship dwindled and I inelegantly bowed out. “I’m putting my needs first,” I thought. “I’m focusing my time and energy on the relationships and activities that matter most to me,” I said.
But — ?
What is right in that context?
In “The Banshees,” the protagonist’s sister (played mesmerizingly by Kerry Condon — a revelation!) confronts the friend who has abruptly shattered the longterm friendship by saying, incredulously, “it’s just not nice!” Later, the protagonist (played beautifully and somewhat startlingly by Colin Farrell) and the friend get into an argument in which the friend insists he has withdrawn from their friendship because he gets nothing from it and would rather focus the diminishing ballast of his time on earth producing art — something that will leave a lasting legacy. “No one remembers someone who’s kind — people remember Mozart,” he says (I’m paraphrasing). The friend pins “kindness” against “artistic solipsism” — you can’t have it both ways, he suggests. Farrell’s character replies that he remembers the people who are kind in his life, and that’s all that matters.
What emerges for me is the reminder that people rely on the kindness of others. When it is withdrawn, societies collapse! We see the effects in this small Irish village, where this seemingly small disruption to the community (one abandoned friendship!) leads to a suicide, a maiming (graphic), the death of an animal, the departure of the protagonist’s sister from the village, and many other unkindnesses.
I don’t have an answer to any of this, but the provocation piques. At what point does being “nice” become a kind of injustice? No one wants to be a charity case, and no one wants to spend time in a relationship that feels performative. But on the flipside, at what point does prioritizing yourself injure those around you? I still feel badly about withdrawing from that relationship. Was it the humane or inhumane thing to do? Banshees suggests that small acts of kindness are the path forward, but it’s a hazy one at best.
What do you think?
+What are your favorite movies?
+What’s in your house?
+I’m in love with this new dress from Tuckernuck’s house label — reminds me of Loretta Caponi and looks like a breeze to wear. Also comes in a shirt version.
+Obsessed with this hot pink sweater — under $30 and the color and shape are perfection.
+Fun knit dress — gives me Missoni vibes.
+Loving the fact that flared yoga pants are back in — I think the silhouette is flattering! These are $24!
+Epic ski onesie…
+Marketed as a ski vest but contemplating buying for running!
+Shearling birks, on sale!
+La Neige lip balm enjoys a cult following.
+This faux leather dress!
+Love the wash and fit of these jeans for the new year. You can score on sale in limited sizes here.
+Long live the blue and white striped button down.
+I’ve been writing a lot about this new beauty brand, UBeauty, but I just noticed that they are offering a special duo of mini sizes of their two bestselling products for $58 (valued at $106). A good way to test the hype.
+Into these ribbed leggings.
+Truly random but this mini travel razor was such a good stocking stuffer a few years ago from my mom — it is really compact but so much better than those stick razors by Bic/Gillette I usually travel with.
+This exaggerated collar top is fun. Pair with jeans and white sneaks (found for under $60 in select sizes here. You can see me wearing my pair here).
+I must have this fun dress and these striped boxer-style shorts for summer.
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