Time: 97 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language
Jude Hill as Buddy
Caitríona Balfe as “Ma”
Jamie Dornan as “Pa”
Judi Dench as “Granny”
Ciarán Hinds as “Pop”
Colin Morgan as Billy Clanton
Director: Kenneth Branagh
A semi-autobiographical film which chronicles the life of a working class family and their young son’s childhood during the tumult of the late 1960s in the Northern Ireland capital.
I heard of Belfast over the past months, with it being Kenneth Branagh’s latest film and a major Oscar contender. I heard some very positive things about it, but also some backlash with regard to its high awards chances. I put aside the awards attention and watched the movie by its own merits, and I actually quite liked it for what it was.
The script is pretty straightforward and very rarely surprises, but it is solid nonetheless. The intense political situation of Belfast in the 1960s is present throughout the film, but the movie is not solely about that specific aspect. Essentially it is a coming of age story of the lead child named Buddy, and its very much a story told through the eyes of the child. It is fairly plotless, although an aspect present throughout is the possibility of Buddy’s family leaving Belfast, and we see how that develops over the course of the film. It is a slice of life film about family and childhood, and this approach to the story won’t work for everyone, it worked well enough for me though. With that said, it is one of those movies which feel like snapshots from a period of time rather than actually telling a strong narrative, and as a result the narrative can meander and feel disjointed. Also, while I appreciate the commitment to having most of the film told through the main child’s perspective, it can occasionally work against itself. When the movie focuses on other elements, some situations and scenes can be pretty contrived, such as when Buddy happens to hear very important conversations from his family. It didn’t bother me too much, but it is nonetheless something I noticed when watching. Nonetheless I was invested with what was happening, and I particularly liked how things were ended in the third act. Finally, the film is semi autobiographical, it is very much a passion project, and that really does help the movie quite a lot. Even with the flaws of the screenplay, it does actually feel like a story Branagh wanted to tell, and that helped the movie feel genuine and heartfelt.
One of the strongest elements are the cast, and each of them are top notch, with Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench all giving great performances. They all worked very well together, and the chemistry between them felt real, they actually felt like a family. Credit should also go to the lead actor for Buddy, Jude Hill. This is his first film but he did very well especially considering that he’s in almost every scene in the film.
Kenneth Branagh directs this movie very well. Immediately noticeable is the black and white cinematography, its gorgeous, well shot and nice to look at. I don’t really think there was much point of having the black and white outside of the few moments where colour is included, but it was nonetheless nice to watch.
Belfast seems to be one of the main frontrunners for Best Picture, and I don’t necessarily think that it’s a great pick for the award. Putting aside Oscar chances however, I think the movie is actually quite good and was better than I was expecting. As a movie focusing on a child’s coming of age, it’s solid and I was invested enough, even if it wasn’t anything special. It is also decently directed by Branagh, and the great performances really helped the film work as well as it does. I do think it is worth checking out at the very least.