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8 Nov 2021

Review: ‘Belfast’

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November 8, 2021 Category: Entertainment Posted by:

In the coming-of-age drama “Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh shows us “The Troubles” through the eyes of a child.

In photo above: (L to R) Jamie Dornan as “Pa”, Ciarán Hinds as “Pop”, Jude Hill as “Buddy”, and Judi Dench as “Granny” in director Kenneth Branagh’s BELFAST, a Focus Features release.

By Denise Clay-Murray

I grew up during the Vietnam War.

While that’s an abstract concept to most people, as a military brat whose father got sent over to Southeast Asia, it was very real to me. While I didn’t completely understand what Vietnam was all about, I understood that adults were fighting, and it impacted me.

I thought about this as I was watching the new movie “Belfast,” which opens nationwide next Friday. The film, directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, and starring Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan and Dame Judy Dench is based on his childhood experiences as a youngster growing up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, when “The Troubles,” the fight between Protestants and Catholics, began in that city.

While the film was shot in black and white, something I found metaphorically creative, the story it tells isn’t.

Life on Buddy’s (Jude Hill) street is pretty carefree. He plays with his friends, lives with his Ma (Balfe) and his brother Will (Lewis McAskie) and waits for the weekends when his Pa (Dornan) comes home from his job in England.

But when a car hit by a Molotov cocktail blows up on his street as he’s coming home, Buddy’s reality starts to change. While his family sticks together and tries to remain neutral through a set of circumstances that don’t really allow for that, eventually life changes so much that he and his family must also change locations.

Usually, I’m bored by coming-of-age stories. If you’ve studied screenwriting at all, you know that the arch for the protagonist starts somewhat normal before being acted upon by a cataclysmic event that he, she, or they must somehow negotiate to get where they’re supposed to be.

That transition didn’t bore me as much as it usually does in “Belfast.” Part of that was because I’m a history geek and I understood the overarching story. But most of it was due to the performances. Hill’s performance as Buddy conveyed knowledge without being too “grown.”

One of my favorite parts of the film was how Buddy and his grandfather Pop (Ciaran Hinds) bonded over the math homework that helped him get closer to the smart Catholic classmate he had a crush on. Seeing a little boy give the girl of his dreams a small bouquet of flowers before leaving the only home he’d ever known was really sweet.

“Belfast” is a well-done movie for a coming-of-age film. I think you’ll enjoy it as well.

“Belfast” opens in theaters Friday.

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