Film Review – Belfast (2021)

Title – Belfast (2021) 

Director – Kenneth Branagh (Thor) 

Cast – Jude Hill, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds

Plot – Young boy Buddy (Hill) and his family that includes his Ma (Balfe) and Pa (Dornan) grow restless in their home town of Belfast as they find their lives upturned by the battle between Protestants and Catholics that rages in their streets during the 60’s. 

“The Irish were born for leavin’, otherwise the rest of the world’d have no pubs”

Review by Eddie on 07/02/2022

A semi-autobiographical film from British director Kenneth Branagh, Belfast marks itself down as the talented filmmakers most personal film yet in an up and down career of highs of lows behind and in front of the camera, as well as making a case for the most feel good movie of the last 12 months that is sure to make a major play for key awards at the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony. 

A break out hit at film festival’s around the world, including the Oscar thermometer the Toronto Film Festival, Belfast has become one of the most awarded and talked about offerings of recent times as Branagh lovingly recreates his home town of Belfast in the late 1960’s when a serious and often deadly battle raged between those that identified as Protestants and stoic Catholics, a battle that lead many too flee Ireland in hope of a better way of life elsewhere. 

Following newcomer Jude Hill’s young Buddy, in a performance that features all the highs and lows of a typical child performer in their first leading role, Belfast is about a carefree young soul who is trying to understand how best to deal with fork in the road decisions, young love and his Ma and Pa’s fragile relationship that is being chipped away it as the war around them rages on in a town they love but a town that may no longer be the best place for them or their two boys. 

Beautifully captured in black and white by Branagh, Belfast’s cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos and scored by Irish native Van Morrison, this is a film that feels as carefully thought out as any of Branagh’s previous works and Branagh gets awards worthy turns from his talented Hollywood cast that is built around Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds scene stealing Ma and Pa and Dornan and Balfe’s fine work as Buddy’s parents, with Balfe in particular getting one of her best roles yet in what you hope is a performance that sets her on a path her talents deserve. 

With such a personalized story, a lived-in sense of time and place and a collection of quality performances you wish Belfast’s story hit a little harder as there’s a slightness to Buddy’s coming of age tale and while the film packs a lot into its quick seeming 90 minute runtime, Branagh is unable to find a crucial and gripping story that may charm in many instances but never finds that magical connection to make his easy to enjoy outing back in time one that will linger long in the memory. 

Final Say – 

Pleasant, charming but also oddly slight, Belfast is a delight to partake in but its lacking in the substances that make these type of feel good award fillers into the magical movies that will linger long in the sands of time. 

3 1/2 Marvel comics out of 5 

6 responses to “Film Review – Belfast (2021)

    • Glad to know I’m not alone Jules!

      In so many ways it’s a lovely film and would be hard not to find enjoyment in it but I would be pretty disappointed in the Academy if this ends up winning Oscar’s, even nominating young Hill would be a bit much as he was pretty inconsistent as the lead.

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