Director: Kenneth Branagh
Runtime: 98 minutes
Cast: Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds, Jude Hill, Colin Morgan, Lewis McAskie
Synopsis: BELFAST is a poignant story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood, amid the music and social tumult of the late 1960s.
From lauded writer/director Kenneth Branagh, and starring an acclaimed ensemble cast, Belfast is a sublime, personal and joyful story about the power of memory, set in late 1960s Northern Ireland.
In his three decades of filmmaking, prolific actor, writer, and director Kenneth Branagh is known for adaptations of Shakespeare, playing Hercule Poirot, and working in every genre from mystery to superhero; now he turns to the city of his birth with Belfast, his most personal — and most affecting — film to date.
At the centre of the coming-of-age drama is young Buddy [Jude Hill – an outstanding debut performance] on the cusp of adolescence as he navigates a landscape of working-class struggle, sweeping cultural changes, falling in love and sectarian violence. Buddy dreams of a glamorous future that will whisk him far from the Troubles, but, in the meantime, he finds consolation in his charismatic Pa [Jamie Dornan:The Tourist (TV mini-series 2022) ;Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021); The Fall (TV mini-series 2013-2016); Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (2015-2018)] and Ma [Caitríona Balfe: Outlander (2014-22); Ford v Ferrari (2019); Money Monster (2016); Escape Plan (2013)] and his spry, story-spinning grandparents [Ciarán Hinds: The Terror (TV 2018), The Woman in Black (2012), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011), Game of Thrones (TV 2013-2015)] and [Judi Dench: Six Minutes to Midnight (2020); Skyfall (2012); Notes on a Scandal (2002);The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)] and older brother, Will [Lewis McAskie: Here Before (2021); Stranger with a Camera (post production)].
Buddy’s life is filled with familial love, childhood hijinks, and a blossoming romance. Yet, with his beloved hometown caught up in increasing turmoil, his family faces a momentous choice: hope the conflict will pass or leave everything they know behind for a new life.
Its story is rooted in blood ties, humour and a close-knit community and is Branagh’s meticulously crafted love letter to Belfast, perfectly evoking a particular place and time with a superb cast filling every scene with energy and distinctive affection and love.
Adding authentic Belfast flavour also is the choice of musical tracks from Belfast native Van Morrison. Branagh has reunited with many long-time collaborators, such as production designer Jim Clay, director of photography Haris Zambarloukos, and editor Úna Ní Dhonghaíle, to create a technically perfect film. Branagh’s script and story is natural, warm and engaging, with realistic dialogue subtly dealing with the themes of a loving Pa having to work away, debt from tax bills and the emerging sectarianism.
With consistently well planned and executed cinematography, the emotional journey of Buddy is highlighted with the use both of colour and the crisp, evocative black and white of the past. Belfast opens in glorious colour showcasing Samson and Goliath the twin shipbuilding gantry cranes situated at Queen’s Island, Titanic Belfast museum and the modern city and then takes us back in noir shades to 1969 and turbulent times facing a loving family filtered through the wonderful central performance of Jude Hill as Buddy and the stellar cast.
One of the best films of the year which concludes with the dedication:
“For those who stayed – For those who left – and for those who were lost.”
Images courtesy of: Universal Pictures UK