Is The Banshees of Inisherin Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Jonathan Hession/20th Century Studios

Martin McDonagh’s directorial ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is a black comedy-drama movie depicting an unusual tale of friendship. Pádraic and Colm have been lifelong buddies, yet everything changes when the latter abruptly ends their friendship. Unable to accept his decision, Pádraic investigates why Colm did so with the help of his sister, Siobhán, and a troubled young man named Dominic. He does everything possible, hoping to restore their equation; however, things turn ugly when Colm adopts some extreme measures to resist reconciliation.

Eventually, Pádraic and Colm’s tumultuous friendship affects everyone on their small West Irish island. Starring stellar actors like Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Barry Keoghan, and Kerry Condon, the movie presents a humorous take on adult relationships ending and how one often has a hard time dealing with losing friends. Moreover, the realistic themes and the setting of Ireland in the 1920s make one wonder if the story has any pinch of truth to it. So, if you are also curious if ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is rooted in reality, let’s find out, shall we?

Is The Banshees of Inisherin a True Story?

No, ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ is not based on a true story. Instead, it has been adapted from an original script penned by director Martin McDonagh. The movie is set in Ireland amid the Irish Civil War in 1923 and focuses on the fallout between two adult best friends. Interestingly, McDonagh initially wrote the story around 2007 as a play titled ‘The Banshees of Inisheer,’ but it was left unfinished. The idea for the movie came to him around 2017-18, and he then expanded upon it, keeping the actors in mind.

Image Credit: Jonathan Hession/20th Century Studios

In an October 2022 interview with The Playlist, the director shared how he wished to tell a simple story about a broken friendship and created it envisioning Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as the protagonist duo. McDonagh said, “Just one guy breaking up with another guy. As simple as that. Just to mine what could come from a very simple premise like that and just to explore it truthfully and sadly, I think.”

“That was, story-wise, what I wanted to do, but then to get Colin and Brendan back together was uppermost in my mind. It was written for them, obviously. We’d been wanting to do that since ‘In Bruges,’ and I was just so lazy, it took 14 years to do,” the filmmaker continued. Besides, McDonagh divulged how the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact shaped the characters of Pádraic and Colm and influenced their situation.

The director said, “I think that was part of it. I think the whole pandemic question of “if we get through it, what are we going to do to not waste time,” all of those questions were imbued somehow into this script. It was written just before COVID hit, but I think there were revisions that probably had aspects of COVID and all those questions within it. But, yeah. I really wanted to explore the simple pain of a simple breakup, I think but have it not be a romantic one. Have it be the simplest form of relationship that ended was what I really wanted to get at.”

Image Credit: Jonathan Hession/20th Century Studios

While the movie is set against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, an actual historical event, the location where the narrative unfolds is fictional. Elaborating on his decision for the same, the filmmaker stated, “So, the original title was “Inisheer,” which is a real-life island. But, it’s a couple of things. Once we came to the location scout, I realized I wanted the beauty of a couple of different places. The kind of rugged, flat fields and old stone walls of Inishmore, where we filmed Pádraic’s house and a lot of the laneways, but also the rugged, mountainous aspect of where Colm lives and that beach, which is Achill Island.”

“Knowing that it was going to be two very different places, to call it Inisheer, for instance, at least everyone in Ireland would know that’s absolutely not in a year. That was part of the reason. But also to make it a little bit more mythical. Not a place where you can’t quite put your finger on exactly where it is, especially in relation to the Civil War and where the battles were and all that kind of stuff. That was part of it, too,” the filmmaker concluded.

Thus, even though ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ has a setting that imitates real life, it is majorly a work of fiction that delves into adult friendships. Through the lens of dark humor, it explores one’s difficulty in letting people go and accepting change. Despite not being so dramatic or extreme, Pádraic and Colm’s situation might remind several viewers of their own experiences and thoughts, giving them something to relate to.

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