Belfast, rated PG-13
Belfast is a well-made film about a family living happily in a mixed (Protestant and Catholic) working class neighborhood in Belfast, Ireland during the late 1960’s. When a violent Protestant mob attempts to drive the Catholics out of the neighborhood, it threatens the family’s peaceful existence.
The film was written and directed by five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn, Henry V, Hamlet and Swan Song), and depicts a coming-of-age story based on his own life in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. His childhood coincided with the beginning of a violent period known as the Troubles, which lasted for decades.
The film is beautifully shot in black and white by cinematographer Haris Zambarlouskos, and features an excellent cast. The film captures the working-class neighborhood where children could once safely play in the streets. At the center of the film is family struggling financially, due in part to Pa having to pay significant back taxes, and trying to decide whether they should leave the country amidst the conflict.
At the center of the film is the likeable nine-year-old Buddy, played by Jude Hill. Buddy lives with his older brother Will, played by Lewis McAskie. We see Buddy playing in the street, watching television, going to the movies and church, and having a crush on a pretty Catholic girl in his class that he plans to marry one day. Buddy’s parents Ma and Pa are played by Caitriona Balfe (Outlander), and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey). Pa works in England as a carpenter, and only comes home every few weekends, while Ma raises Buddy and Will, and tries to make ends meet. Buddy’s grandparents are wonderfully played by Ciaran Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Oscar winner Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love).
Hanging over the film is the big question the family is facing. Do they remain in this increasingly dangerous neighborhood where they’ve lived their entire lives, where extended family lives, where everyone knows everyone, or do they move somewhere safer, like England, Sydney or Vancouver, where nobody knows them, and start all over?
The musical soundtrack by Belfast native Van Morrison is a treat, and features several of his songs. The film does include some adult language and violence.
Belfast is a well-made film based on a true story.