"We just wanted to make one of the most beautiful Irish films we could possibly make," says Martin McDonagh, the London-Irish born writer, director and producer of the acclaimed new film, The Banshees of Inisherin. Set on the fictional island of Inisherin in 1923 during the Irish Civil War, filming took place on Inis Mór in County Galway and Achill Island in County Mayo – two stunning locations on the Wild Atlantic Way. The west coast of Ireland's vast seascapes and rolling green fields provide a dramatic backdrop for this black comedy.
Starring a brilliant Irish cast including Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan, the story follows lifelong friends Pádraic (Farrell) and Colm (Gleeson), who find themselves at an impasse when Colm unexpectedly puts an end to their friendship. It's a tale full of Irish wit, humour, traditional music, myth and folklore. With the natural beauty of Ireland featuring as another star of the show.
Much of the action was shot on idyllic Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands, which lie just off the coast of County Galway. Famed for its high sea cliffs, miles of dry-stone walls and cute cottages, Inis Mór is well worth the short boat trip or flight from the mainland. Don't miss Dún Aonghasa, an ancient stone fort that's perched on the cliff-edge above the roaring Atlantic Ocean.
"This is an extraordinarily harsh place with all this bare limestone rock but there's a softness about it and it's the most extraordinary thing," says Brendan Gleeson of the place.
Whereas Martin McDonagh is quick to point out the island's "literary associations." Indeed many writers have been wowed by this magical spot. JM Synge called it "the last outpost of ancient Europe."
Achill Island in County Mayo was the other main filming location for the movie and it wasn't about to be outdone by its island neighbour! "Inis Mór was really moving and then when we came to Achill, I felt like it changed gears very much like the script," says Kerry Condon, who plays the role of Siobhán. This is a landscape of rugged beauty and remote beaches. In fact, the gorgeous Keem Strand features in the official poster for the film as well as providing the shoot location for some of the key scenes.
"The places that we have been lucky enough to inhabit have really held the story together – our dreams and our disappointments and our fears and our need to allow the story breadth and vastness," notes Colin Farrell. There's no doubt that the story is heightened by the spectacular mountains, lakes and big Atlantic skies of Achill Island.
Irish culture and heritage
As well as showcasing Ireland's natural beauty, The Banshees of Inisherin also weaves a rich vein of Irish culture and heritage through the story. The banshees which are mentioned in the film's title are female spirits from Irish folklore, which herald the death of a family member by wailing or shrieking. They're an ominous nod to the story's darker aspects.
Traditional Irish music also plays a central part in the plot. Colm (Gleeson) forgoes Pádraic's (Farrell) friendship so he can focus on composing a piece of fiddle music that will act as his legacy. Gleeson's real-life fiddle skills are on full display here.
History buffs can also savour the early 20th century setting. The battle taking place within the friendship on screen is cleverly played out against the bigger conflict of the Irish Civil War, which saw families and friends divided during this troublesome time.
Whereas fashion lovers can ogle the gorgeously authentic outfits worn by the cast. Keep your eye out for the world-famous Aran jumper, which was first made by industrious knitters on the Aran Islands in the early 1900s. These warm and chunky "fisherman's" sweaters have been in style ever since, with stars such as Steve McQueen, Sarah Jessica Parker and Taylor Swift sporting them over the years.
Ireland on screen
The Banshees of Inisherin is the latest in a long line of movies which have made Ireland a star of the silver screen. From Star Wars and Harry Potter to Brooklyn and Braveheart, the Emerald Isle always shines bright when it's in the spotlight.
Ireland on screen – that's one relationship that remains stronger than ever!
The Banshees of Inisherin is now streaming on Disney+