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The beginning of The Troubles in Northern Ireland is shown from the point of view of a young child living with his middle-class Protestant family in . Nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) lives in a working-class neighbourhood in North Belfast with his Ma (Caitriona Balfe), older brother Will (Lewis McAskie), and grandparents Granny (Judi Dench) and Pop (Ciarán Hinds), while Buddy's Pa (Jamie Dornan) works in England, coming home every two weekends. However, on August 15, 1965, a riot breaks out in Buddy's predominantly Protestant neighbourhood, targeting the Catholic minority. This results in confusion for Buddy, who is also scared at the prospect that his family will have to leave Belfast.

Belfast is a semi-autobiographical film by writer/director Kenneth Branagh, which is loosely based on Branagh's own childhood experience in the Northern Ireland capital of Belfast. The film kicks off with a full-colour aerial view of the modern city, accompanied by the sounds of Van Morrison, before switching to black and white to tell the story of Buddy and his family. The recent hostilities between the Catholic and Protestant population of Belfast result in much confusion in Buddy, as he witnesses local gang leader Billy Clanton (Colin Morgan) and is the victim of some bad influence by his older friend Moira (Lara McDonnell). When a chance comes for the whole family to move to England, Buddy responds with resentment about having to leave not only his home but his Pop and Granny.

Belfast is arguably the most personal film Kenneth Branagh has directed, with probably the most immediate comparison being Alfonso Cuarón's 2018 film Roma, which is also a predominantly black and white semi-autobiographical film about a middle-class family. The film takes place from mid-1969 through early-1970, during which time there was increased violence within Belfast that would eventually develop into The Troubles, a civil conflict that would last for three decades.

While the emerging Troubles forms the backdrop of the story of Belfast, the main focus is how this increased violence affects Buddy and his family. Indeed, Buddy seems more concerned with getting math help and relationship advice from his Pop and going to the movies. However, back taxes has put Buddy's family into immense financial hardship and with the increased violence within the city, Buddy's Pa thinks it is time to leave for greener pastures.

Kenneth Branagh places a dedication at the end of Belfast stating the this is a film “For the ones who stayed. For the ones who left. For the ones who were lost.” Indeed, Belfast is less of a film about The Troubles (I'd recommend 2014's '71 for that type of film), but it is instead of how the growing violence affected the population of the city, resulting in the biggest realignment of people since World War II.

While the casting for Belfast includes some familiar faces such as Jame Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey), Caitriona Balfe (Outlander), Ciarán Hinds (Game of Thrones), and Judi Dench, the true star of the film is 10-year-old newcomer Jude Hill as Buddy. Indeed, the film is told entirely from Buddy's perspective, to the point that his parents and grandparents are simply named Pa and Ma and Pop and Granny respectively.

Instead of opting for a conventional score, Branagh instead worked with Belfast-born musician Van Morrison to provide the music for Belfast. The soundtrack of the film features 8 songs from Morrison's catalogue, along with an all-new song written for the film as well as some instrumental tracks. There is also a memorable moment in the film, where Jamie Dornan gets to show off his singing skills, as he belts out Robert Knight's 1967 hit “Everlasting Love.”

Overall, Belfast ends up being a very heartwarming film set during one of the most tumultuous times in the titular city's history.

Belfast opens on Friday, November 12, 2021


Trailer for Belfast

This post was proofread by Grammarly 
Belfast (2021)
Runtime:98 minutes
Director:Kenneth Branagh
Country:United Kingdom
(written by)
Production companies:
A young boy and his working-class Belfast family experience the tumultuous late 1960s.
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