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Movie Review: “Belfast” Brings A New Lens to The Troubles of Northern Ireland

Movies about conflict and war usually tend to be gloomy and serious, but through a different lens, “Belfast” brings a charming and unique story that contrasts with other films in the same genre.  

“Belfast,” directed and written by Kenneth Branagh, follows the life of a working-class family in the late 1960s during the Troubles a “violent sectarian conflict” between the Protestants and Catholics, in Northern Ireland. The film is largely inspired by Branagh’s life growing up with his family in Belfast during that time. 

Usually, with a film based during a time like the Troubles, you expect a lot of the plot to focus on the conflict, but Branagh decided to make most of the film from the point of view of the family’s 9-year-old son, Buddy, played by newcomer Jude Hill. 

This decision was an ideal choice, bringing what was a very serious and dark time some innocence and comedic value. 

Throughout the film, you see some of the conflicts occur and the consequences of them on the family, specifically the father, played by Jamie Dornan, but most of the film really focuses on how life had to continue like normal for many people despite the dangers. 

The direction and cinematography of the film are alluring and match perfectly with the film’s tone. Branagh decided to make the film black and white, bringing the audience back in time with him. 

There is also some fun, interesting hints throughout the film about Branagh’s 40-year career in acting, directing, and screenwriting. In one scene, Buddy is sitting on the curb and is reading a “Thor” comic book, which Branagh directed in 2011. Anytime a movie or play was seen in the film, they were in color, showing Buddy’s passion for films and reflecting Branagh’s own passion for the medium and his future endeavors. 

Even though the film is only an hour and 38 minutes long, the movie feels a lot longer than it actually is due to its odd pacing, especially in the middle, making one start to wonder when the movie was going to end.  

The acting helps move the plot along though, with Jude Hill, Caitriona Balfe as Ma, and Ciarán Hinds as Pop giving very real and captivating performances of their characters that make it easy for the audience to connect. 

Because of all these aspects, the film feels authentic and personal, you feel as if you are in the classroom with Buddy or in the living room with the family. It gives a charming sense of home and family life like you are a part of theirs. “Belfast” works well that way because of the plot’s focus on Buddy. Everyone knows what it feels like to be a child on the sidelines of adult problems, so it helps the audience connect more to the story even if they aren’t from Belfast or were living there during that time. 

“Belfast” is a well-executed film, with a nostalgic plot enforced by the outstanding acting performances and direction. Despite some slowness in the plot, through a new lens, the film is a delightful dedication to the history and people of Belfast. 

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