TL;DR – A delightful film that has the ability to surprise you with its emotional content, even when you know it is coming.
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was invited to a press screening of this film
Belfast Review –
When I trace my lineage back in time, half of me comes from Ireland and the other half from England, which makes any film set in Northern Ireland this odd combination of interests and concern. I honestly did not know what to expect when I walked into the cinema, which was for the best as I got sucked into this narrative and world.
So to set the scene, on the 15th of August 1969, it was a quiet day in the suburbs of Belfast. Ma (Caitríona Balfe) calls out across the street for Buddy (Jude Hill) that it is time to come home for dinner. As the request gets passed up the road, Buddy comes galloping home only to crash into a riot in progress. As the violence increases, a barricade is put up on the street, and Pa (Jamie Dornan) comes rushing home from overseas because soon, the family will have to make some hard choices.
One of the ways this film captures you is how it handles and escalates tension. There are times when the film ratches up the pressure in a moment, like a surprise wave crashing into the side of a ship, violent and confronting. The opening riot is terrifying as you see people running for cover as their own homes are used against them. But Belfast also uses subtle editing to create the overwhelming fear of dread. It will capture Pa and Billy (Colin Morgan) in a frame in such a way that you know there is a coming confrontation. Or how the film will linger on the bins for just a second or two longer than they need to. Everything is managed in such a way that shows a strong direction and editing process took place. This is all helped by the film moving at a constant pace that never felt rushed or that it was dragging its feet.
As well as the tension, the film also uses techniques to make the emotion stand out. The first is by framing the film through the eyes of Buddy. He sees the world in a much more joyful manner, giving us a unique window into the deteriorating situation. Belfast supports this in both how it forwards the narrative and how it frames its shots to give the feeling of Buddy’s perspective. It also helps that Jude Hill is an outstanding actor that can capture some nuanced emotions. This also extends to the cast, who are all perfect for their roles. I 100% believed that Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds were an old married couple whose mannerisms and conversations felt entirely natural for the situation. Jamie Dornan bubbles with the charisma you need for someone in his position. Even some of the more minor roles like Moira (Lara McDonnell), who is unknowingly entirely out of her depth, felt absolutely genuine. These performances greatly impacted me, and I found myself in tears on multiple occasions.
From a production perspective, the shift from colour to black-and-white and back again didn’t really do anything for me, but it also didn’t detract from the film. Also, while I liked the narrative, even when it was hitting a bit too close to home, one aspect of it frustrated me. From the context of the film, it never fit that Ma would be the one to hold the family back and keep them in harm’s way because she was the one living in danger and seeing what it was doing to Buddy and his brother Will (Lewis McAskie). The fact that the film kept coming back to this did become a minor annoyance as the narrative proceeded.
In the end, do we recommend Belfast? Absolutely. This film captured the essence of a complicated subject and didn’t hold back any punches while also not slipping into sensationalism. There was a genuine emotion from start to finish, and I am sure this will be a film that will stay with me for a while. If you liked Belfast, I would also recommend to you Minari.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you watched Belfast?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Belfast
Directed by – Kenneth Branagh
Written by – Kenneth Branagh
Music by – Van Morrison
Cinematography by – Haris Zambarloukos
Edited by – Úna Ní Dhonghaíle
Production/Distribution Companies – Northern Ireland Screen, TKBC, Focus Features & Universal Pictures
Starring – Jude Hill, Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Lewis McAskie, Colin Morgan, Lara McDonnell, Gerard Horan, Drew Dillon, Conor MacNeill, Turlough Convery, Gerard McCarthy, Olive Tennant, Victor Alli, Josie Walker, Vanessa Ifediora & John Sessions
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Germany: 12; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13