MOVIE REVIEW: “Belfast” stars Jude Hill (Magpie Murders [TV series], Mandrake), Lewis McAskie (Here Before, Stranger with a Camera), Caitriona Balfe (Ford v Ferrari, Outlander [TV series]), Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Fall [TV series]), Judi Dench (Skyfall, Notes on a Scandal), and Ciarán Hinds (The Woman in Black, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). It is written and directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor [2011], Henry V).

Set in late 1960s Northern Ireland, a small family tries to navigate the perilous times of the Troubles.

“Belfast” has the look of a black-and-white “Jojo Rabbit.” Just without Hitler. No? Maybe it’s just me.

I had relatively high hopes for this one. Sure, it’s up for the Academy Award for Best Picture, but since when do we let that tell us what’s the best? (That nomination is more so a means for us to figure out how out-of-touch this Academy actually is). I was more so interested by the promotionals for it; something about a kid growing up with a harsh backdrop of war appeals to me. In the case of “Belfast,” it’s the Troubles of Northern Ireland in the late 60s, where there was division between the Protestants and Catholics. A real life event I knew nothing about, and was all the more intrigued upon viewing.

Essentially, “Belfast” is a slice of life flick. It’s told through the lens of a kid who’s simply trying to deal with matters of childhood amidst such adult travesty. The journey he takes is full of moments that made me smile, lightly chuckle, and sit back in sullenness. There’s plenty to learn in such a troubling time such as that (or any war/battle for that matter), with the biggest themes tackling equality (or the attacking of your neighbor because they are a different denomination) and heritage. Kenneth Branagh, the writer/director of this, grew up in Ireland during the Troubles. He’s gone on to say this is his most personal film, and it feels as such.

The ensemble that fills this picture is quite wonderful. I have a feeling that Jamie Dorman is on the rise (since putting away the “Fifty Shades” role), and his part as the patriarch of this family is done nicely. He and Judi Dench were the only faces I recognized in this, and I preferred it that way. It made the cast feel real, and with a story that is very much biographical it works. I felt a closeness between them all, which made the choice of whether to split the family up (in an attempt to escape the Troubles) all the more difficult. You want to root for these people, and not just them, but the town in general. It’s a tragic thing to see these people endure, and it kind of reminds me of what’s going on in the world today with Ukraine. There’s no civil war over there, but there is certainly a war no one asked for, with innocent lives being put out. Horrible, horrible stuff.

Branagh shows the beauty found in the few hopeful moments. I liked Buddy’s (Hill) crush on a girl in school; that aspect kept things light in the midst of a tense backdrop. His overall vision captured with this movie is pretty sleek. It’s like a time capsule of youth, and how important it is to hold on to what you have (and never forget where you came from). I wasn’t necessarily wowed in a Best Picture nominee sense, but I did enjoy what I saw, and found it to be an endearing, small film experience to take part in. Not to mention the great soundtrack that consisted mostly of Van Morrison songs (I was not aware he was Irish).

“Belfast” is a personal film. One that gives us a peek into history, while stressing the importance of family, brotherhood, and love. I don’t think it’ll win Best Picture (who is to say though), but it’s nice to see something of a love letter make it into the nominees. We look for stories that pull us into the world of the filmmaker, and Branagh did just that. If you’re interested by the trailer below, I recommend it. Though it’s not the grandest piece of cinema, it certainly is lovely. FINAL SCORE: 88%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

One response to ““Belfast”

  1. Pingback: March Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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