The year is 1969. Belfast, Northern Ireland. Buddy, A 9 year old boy is playing in the streets with the neighborhood kids with his wooden sword. Buddy picks up his trash lid shield to continue in play, and before he knows it The Troubles of Northern Ireland just bursted on the streets with bullets whizzing by. Angry men throwing molotov cocktails on buildings and setting a car on fire pushing it downhill. The picture perfect childhood of playing in the streets just turned into a warzone, and laughter is no longer in the streets.
The mum rushes out in the streets to protect her son, and retrieves him to some small shelter in the home amongst the broken glass, and his other frightened older brother. The war in the streets has begun. This will last off and on, as the family struggles whether they should leave the land they lived in their entire called home, or find an escape to move from the uncertainty of war into another country.
Kenneth Branagh directs this semi-autobiography on his life growing up in Belfast which can be seen for some subtle shots of films that either inspired him, or those that he directed in his career.
Belfast is a beautifully and well shot film in it’s mostly crisp black and white scenes. The scenes never seem to rush, and barely (if any) shaky camera. The film in fact plays like an open family picture book being shown without getting too lost into romanticising it. The father (Jamie Dorran) isn’t helping the idea of moving with his excuses of heavy gambling, while the mother (Caitríona Balfe) struggles, maintaining the household, and refusing to leave her homeland. The grandparents are well aged, and will remain to give wit and wisdom to their children, and grandchildren. The two young boys spend their days in school, struggling to go to church where the pastor screams fire and brimstones “messages”, and playing in the streets (when possible). A number of their days are spent in front of the telley watching classic American Westerns, or in the pictures admiring a Ralquel Welch film ‘One Million Years B.C.’. For educational purposes, of course.
Everyone here has great chemistry, and feels like a real family, and real life ordeals in Northern Ireland. The best in this film is played by 9 year old Jude Hill. The lad has such great charm, humour, and cleverness, with such emotion, he is definitely the show stealer. Also to add to the praise is Judi Drench (not the best Northern Irish accent, but I’ll let it pass) and Ciarán Hinds as the grandparents.
The music by Belfast native Van Morrison just adds to the film’s beauty of life and it’s struggles during the times of the Catholics and the Protestants uprising.
With that the film never goes too deep into darkness on the IRA nor does it spends it’s time lecturing you what and who was right or wrong. It’s apparent what is happening and the dangers that are within. When the scenes happen in colour in modern moments and glimpse of the pictures on screen is a nice touch. I will admit the film left me with several tears as someone understanding being in Ireland, and now in the States.
I highly recommend this film as one of my personal favourites of this year. Be sure to check it out!
“No matter how far you go, Never forget where you came from.”
Film’s content : Belfast is rated PG-13
Sex/Nudity : None. When in the pictures the wife stares at her husband smiling at the scantily dressed woman on screen.
Language : 1 F-word, several bloody, bugger,and other Irish slang said throughout. 1 scatalogical term, 1 anatomical term, and 4 mild language
Violence : A slow motion of a man getting punched in the face with little blood spit. People get shot, but the scenes are so fast you can’t make it out too much. A riot happens a few times in the streets. People light buildings and a car on fire. Some are shown wounded, but nothing too strong.