Home Belfast (Subtitled)

Belfast (Subtitled) (12A)

Cast: Jamie Dornan, Michael Maloney, Ciaran Hinds, Caitriona Balfe, Colin Morgan, Dame Judi Dench, Jude Hill
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Sir Kenneth Branagh
Director: Sir Kenneth Branagh
Release Date: 21/01/2022
Running Time: 98mins
Country: UK
Year: 2021

Nine-year-old Buddy and his family - Pa, Ma and older brother Will - live in a predominantly Protestant district of north Belfast, cheek by jowl with Catholic neighbours. Granny and Pop live a few streets away. When sectarian violence sweeps through the city, Buddy's parents try to protect him from the emotional fallout but there is no escaping the barricades and riots.


LondonNet Film Review
Belfast (12A)

Life in black and white seems more colourful and vibrant in writer-director Kenneth Branagh’s wondrous coming-of-age drama, drawn from the film-maker’s vast well of childhood experiences in 1960s Belfast. Sincerely dedicated to the people of the Northern Irish capital – “For the ones who stayed. For the ones who left. And for all the ones who were lost” – Branagh’s most personal film unfolds from the perspective of a nine-year-old rapscallion called Buddy (played by luminous newcomer Jude Hill), who we first see romping around the streets with his pals, brandishing a home-made wooden sword and using an upturned dustbin lid as a shield…

The cheeky tyke is slaying imaginary dragons but the invisible enemy, which is poised to roar and tear apart Protestant and Catholic communities, is a two-headed hydra of political and nationalistic fervour. Principal characters in Branagh’s script are referred to simply by their familial ties to Buddy – Ma, Pa, Granny and Pop – tapping into an undercurrent of charming childhood innocence that insulates the boy from the harsh reality of barricades being hastily erected at the end of the street or a local supermarket being looted during a riot.

Indeed, when the prospect of leaving Belfast for good solidifies, Buddy is most troubled about leaving behind his school crush, a girl called Catherine, who repeatedly scores top marks in teacher Miss Lewis’s tests of the children’s times tables. The simple arithmetic of Branagh’s crowd-pleasing film adds up to a beautifully crafted valentine to a city in the grip of devastating change and a resilient and warm-hearted people, who mine humour in adversity. “The Irish were born for leaving,” an aunt tells Buddy’s mother by way of a bittersweet farewell. “Otherwise the rest of the world would have no pubs!”

Buddy (Hill) and his family – Pa (Jamie Dornan), Ma (Caitiona Balfe) and older brother Will (Lewis McAskie) – live in a predominantly Protestant district of north Belfast, cheek by jowl with Catholic neighbours. Granny (Dame Judi Dench) and Pop (Ciaran Hinds) live a few streets away. Billy Clanton (Colin Morgan) and his comrades target Catholic houses in Buddy’s neighbourhood, claiming they are “lookin’ to cleanse the community a wee bit”. Hostilities result in family members going through barricade checkpoints and local men patrolling night-time streets with torches. For Pa, it is an unthinkable opportunity to transplant the clan to Australia or Canada: “An escape route”.

Distinguished by Haris Zambarloukos’s monochrome cinematography, Belfast relies on a terrific ensemble cast led by the exuberant Hill to paper over slight narrative shortfalls in a rose-tinted script drizzled with nostalgia. Balfe’s fearful matriarch is the film’s beating heart and she powerfully conveys the emotional turmoil of a family’s forcible displacement from their home. Branagh’s delicate touch results in a sprightly running time that leaves us hankering for more.

– Jo Planter


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