Written and Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Caitríona Balfe, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan
Music by Van Morrison
Belfast is a movie about Ireland splitting at the seams. In the process of a normal day, August 15, 1969, young Buddy (Jude Hill) is about to undergo a life changing moment. His Protestant family, living in and amongst Catholics in Northern Ireland, are brought into the war zone for the long running battle called The Troubles. The fighting was along Catholic and Protestant lines, but mostly it was those who wanted a united Ireland versus those wanting Northern Ireland to remain in the UK.
In this climate, young Kenneth Branagh is formed, as we see through young Buddy’s eyes. He’s fascinated with movies and that blonde Catholic girl in his class. He doesn’t understand the danger his father is in just drawing a line between his family and the elements of the strife in their hometown.
The picture is well portrayed and the cinematography is ironically black and white, with the movies Buddy and his family watch being the only thing in color. Every moment with the stark contrast of black and white represents the purity of young Buddy’s outlook contrasted with the focus of his life virging on change.
We see Buddy’s parents (Dornan and Balfe) involved in serious discussions about relocating the family. Pa wants to go. Ma is torn and doesn’t want to abandon their home, even as elements start to spin beyond the control of two parents. Complicating this is the fact that Father works as a joiner, often out of town.
What’s more, Pa’s parents (Hinds and Dench) are still in town and they are fully involved with their grandchildren. Hinds’ Pop is a fount of wisdom while Dench’s loaded with even more, though she is not as willing to blab about it.
The passion to show his family in such an artistic light is clearly a story Branagh needed to release. He painstakingly portrays crucial moments in detail, including a running storyline where he is brought to and through trouble’s door by an older friend.
Overall, this is a good film that gives the feeling of a world of isolation at the crossroads. His messages from his Protestant church tell him that he must contemplate which road to choose, while his parents decide whether to go, to stay or split apart. We know how close Buddy is to losing it all, even if he doesn’t fully understand the concept.
This is a brief tale that lacks any amount of pretension that might be present in a longer film. We know what is at stake here and we get a good idea what is going to be lost, even if most of the losses don’t hit the screen.
(**** out of *****)