Starring: Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Running Time: 97 mins
Belfast is a British film about a young boy who grows up in a tight-knit Protestant family at the outbreak of the The Troubles, which threaten to pull his family away from its home city.
A soaring crowd-pleaser through and through, Belfast is an absolute delight of a film, featuring intimate, passionate directing from Kenneth Branagh, a lovable ensemble cast, fantastic humour, and emotional depth that might just leave a few tears in your eyes come the end.
Set amidst one of the darkest periods of recent British history, it almost seems jarring to see such a lively, uplifting film set in the era of The Troubles. However, more than a historical insight into the conflict in Northern Ireland, this semi-autobiographical account of life in Belfast at its outset is far more personal, and far more touching.
The story revolves around a Protestant family who, in the face of rising tensions in their area cause by Protestant militants, consider moving away to England to give themselves a better chance in life.
However, as a film full of love for its title city, that decision isn’t easily made, and Belfast delivers highly as a love letter to the Northern Irish capital, and the tight-knit and diverse community that was so unfairly ripped apart by religious extremism at the end of the 1960s.
At the centre of it all is Jude Hill, who plays Buddy, the family’s young son. With much of its attention on the children of Belfast, this film is able to direct its eyes away from the grittier parts of the conflict, and give a nostalgic portrayal of innocence and joy thriving in a situation which seemed so helpless.
As we see Buddy play and grow up against the backdrop of conflict, Belfast emerges as a film on a similar level to Innocent Voices and Hope & Glory, where the innocence of childhood always wins out over any evil and division that others may try to stoke.
Coupled with Jude Hill’s wonderful performance that makes Buddy such a lovable character, along with the brilliant turns from his family members Jamie Dornan, Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds, Belfast becomes a deeply touching, uplifting story about the strength of a kind-hearted, loving family.
All of this is tinged with a clear passion and nostalgia from director Kenneth Branagh, who uses Roma-style black-and-white cinematography to great effect in further bringing out that rosey-eyed perspective of the past.
Further bolstered by gorgeous humour and spellbinding moments of colour, this is one of the liveliest, most soaring films you’ll see all year, so much so that it might even leave you with tears of joy in your eyes. So, that’s why I’m giving Belfast an 8.1 overall.