Sir Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical film Belfast is already a favorite of Oscars voters and has received rave reviews.
Buddy (a fictionalized young Kenneth) is the protagonist. Buddy wanders around on the streets and his greatest worry is whether he can have more chocolate or less church.
His passion is going to the cinema – especially to see Westerns. The film shows that the Branaghs were an enormous clan, and he wasn’t alone.
The movie, which is called a “masterpiece” shot in black and blanc, captures the emotional and political, as a community breaks apart during The Troubles. This film was viewed through Buddy, the young boy.
British and Irish critics have appreciated Hill’s ‘irresistible tenderness,’ and the performance of his adult co-stars.
Jude Hill stars in Belfast as Buddy (pictured).
Lewis McAskie portrays Will. Caitriona balfe portrays Ma. Judi dench plays Granny. Jamie Dornan is Pa. Jude Hill plays Buddy.
The film is stunning from beginning to end. You will be greeted by color images of Belfast in modern times, while the soundtrack of Van Morrison is played throughout.
Many agreed with American peers’ assessment, which tipped it for the awards season glory last fall in America.
Brian Viner, of The Daily Mail, writes that while Ciaran Hinds is a great Pop player, it’s Judi Dench who’s most moving. Granny’s difficultly-conflicted decision to move to a new home for herself and her parents’ pain, which Granny has to deal with.
Kevin Maher from The Times comments: “The adult performances also include two charismatic turns of Dornan and Balfe who often participate in dance numbers. Sometimes, they even sing too.
RTÉ, Ireland’s national public broadcaster, hailed the film a ‘gemstone of 2022’.
Harry Guerin reviewed the book and wrote, “A beautiful story of coming of age, a perfect celebration and tribute to family and city life, Belfast manages to pack a lot into one hour and a quarter.”
Take a look at the opinions of critics.
THE DAILY MAIL
He shines the spotlight for the first-time with his autobiographical drama Belfast. For which he received a well-deserved Best Screenplay Award at the Golden Globes.
Brian Viner writes: Belfast is a bewitchingly intimate, warm-hearted, wholly captivating film, firmly rooted in a particular time and place yet in a way telling a generic tale, that of refugees through the ages.
The film is stunning from beginning to end. You’ll see color images of Belfast in modern times, with Van Morrison music playing throughout.
Ciaran hinds’ Pop performance is beautiful, but Judi dench’s performance might move you to tears as Granny confronts Ma and Pa’s conflicting decision to leave.
Jamie Dornan and Caitriona balfe are also great. Every minute was wonderful.
Scroll down for Brian Viner’s full review.
Kevin Maher writes: Kenneth Branagh has made a masterpiece. Belfast, set in Northern Ireland, 1969 and starting with the August riots which kicked-start the Troubles. It is an intimate portrait of a family at risk, drawn from Branagh’s childhood. He fled to Reading in that year.
This movie has beautiful performances and precise writing, also from Branagh. It even includes enough Van Morrison classics and funny one-liners to help you forget that it’s about the resentful sectarian hatreds.
The film received seven Golden Globe nominations alongside The Power of the Dog and is a front-runner for the Baftas as well as the Oscars.
THE EVENING STANDARD
Charlotte O’Sullivan writes: A winner at Toronto, and tipped to snag more big prizes at the Baftas and Oscars, Kenneth Branagh’s latest movie is a semi-autobiographical drama about growing up during the Troubles.
It has some self-serving and sentimental moments (and pushes the “killer Van Morrison” button far too frequently), but I enjoyed it. Although the majority of scenes are shot in black-and-white, the logic behind the story is not.
Let’s have a fun take on nostalgia that warms our hearts, but also makes us feel cold.
Peter Bradshaw writes, Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical film about Belfast, his childhood, is full of warmth and tenderness. The movie was written with sensitivity, and beautifully directed in monochrome. There are set pieces and epiphanies that make it feel like Terence Davies, but more gentle.
Some people may find the film sentimental, or not conforming to the model of political anger and despair appropriate for dramas about Northern Ireland.
This film is so witty and emotional. It tackles an important dilemma that many people don’t understand: When and if to leave Belfast. It is a matter of survival, or if you are willing to abandon your home and town to extremists.
Harry Guerin writes: Once in every while, a film comes along that could get even the fussiest out of the house – and bring them back a few hours later in better form.
This is the 2022 gemstone.
It’s an inspiring story about coming of age, it is a perfect celebration of family and a fitting tribute for the goodness and generosity in its citizens. Belfast packs a lot in just over an hour.
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
Robbie Collin writes: Belfast’s purpose is to sketch various coming-of-age moments (a classroom crush, parental money worries, a fire-and-brimstone sermon, and so on) over a backdrop of brewing unrest.
This is done with a lot more creativity and sensibility than in 2019, Jojo Rabbit. In which, the Holocaust was reduced into a quick fix historical source. However, Belfast’s nostalgia flights can sometimes feel strangely detached.
You’ll find lines and jokes that you know well, and Branagh can be seen coaching the performance of his young (extremely adorable) lead from just outside of the shot.
But Dornan and Balfe are wonderful as the imperfect-but-loving parents doing their best, while as Dornan’s own Ma and Pa, Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds deliver industrial quantities of twinkle.
Dulcie Pearce writes: The Troubles are present in this film, but certainly not the main focus of it.It’s more a touching coming-of-age tale about an inquisitive boy who is trying to navigate school crushes, homework and pinching chocolate, while his stable, comforting home shatters around him.
This movie was shot in black and blanc, creating a sense of nostalgia. Branagh very occasionally uses splashes of colour when watching through Buddy’s eyes the movies he so adores — which is a nod to his own admiration for moving pictures.
Belfast isn’t perfect. There are some characters that don’t get enough airtime, the parents look extraordinarily glamorous and stick out like a glossy-varnished thumb among the locals.
Branagh’s passion project for warmth is definitely worth your time.
Clarisse Loughrey writes Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast – A film about Troubles, but when you get into the movie, it’s not so much about Troubles.
A twinkly-eyed childhood memoir – and rigorously fashioned to be an Oscar frontrunner – it’s set during the cold months of 1969, when outbursts of sectarian violence across Northern Ireland marked a change in the air…
The real talk – violence, religion, identity, politics – appears only in short, sharp bursts. True hatred can be condensed to a single, clearly villainous person (Colin Morgan). Buddy’s world is characterized by an artificial neatness: it seems that ground has never been walked on; the gates seem to have only been opened once.
NEW YORK TIMES
Jeannette Catsoulis reviewed the film and wrote that “Belfast” is a personal story about coming of age. However, Balfe’s powerful performance makes it a universal tale about displacement.
Her authenticity stabilizes the heartbeat in a film that can occasionally be irritatingly cute and which offers very little insight beyond Buddy’s block.
Branagh’s thoughts may seem idealistic, but his remembrances are charming and sweet. He has sent a sweet, rose-tinted thanks-you note with “Belfast” to the city which sparked him dreams and the parents who made it possible.
Kenneth Branagh’s emotional journey is a joy. BRIAN VINER review Belfast
Verdict: This is a small masterpiece
Sir Kenneth Branagh has never made a secret of his early life, growing up in Northern Ireland as the Troubles erupted, then leaving at the age of nine when his working-class Protestant parents made the decision to move the family to England to escape the turmoil.
It has been a side note to his life. His autobiographical drama Belfast for which he received a well-deserved Best Screenplay award from the Golden Globes earlier in the month puts him front and center.
It is an intimate film that captures the heart of a person.
Sir Kenneth Branagh never kept his childhood in Northern Ireland secret, as he was growing up during the Troubles.
The film is stunning from beginning to end. You’ll see modern-day Belfast in color. The music by Van Morrison is the soundtrack throughout. It then transforms to black and white, showing a peaceful urban scene of August 1969. There are children playing, neighbors chatting and an happy community. Buddy, the young boy (engagingly played here by Jude Hill), is slowly returning home.
Everything changes suddenly. Hardline Loyalists are determined to drive Catholics out of the predominantly Protestant neighborhood, and Rioters emerge. Branagh makes a strong 360-degree turn around Buddy to show how violent, meanhearted tumult is threatening his innocence and carefree youth.
Soon, tanks are rolling up Mountcollyer Street. Buddy resides with Ma (Caitriona Ballfe), Pa (Jamie Dornan), an older brother, Will, and paternal grandparents Granny and Ciaran Hinds.
It seems that Buddy doesn’t give actual names to grown-ups to show his appreciation for the story’s universality, and more particularly, the significance of Westerns in Buddy’s imagination.
He left at the age of nine when his working-class Protestant parents made the decision to move the family to England to escape the turmoil
His world appears to be at its lowest point, although it’s not. The reality is that he has a sense of being particularly resonant during our current pandemic-blighted time: it’s a new normal. As before, family and community life continue as usual. It is possible to incorporate poisonous sectarianism into daily conversation. “Daddy, will you not be a vigilante upon our barricade?”
Belfast’s essence, much like John Boorman’s charmant Hope And Glory (1987), is the transition from war to peace in the context of one little boy’s and his family’s lives.
Buddy actually has bigger problems than most men with guns. He is a crush on his teacher and an occasional shoplifter. Buddy’s bitter street strife is not his biggest problem. His parents also have an overwhelming tax bill and increasing evidence that Pop’s lungs may be failing.
Pop and Buddy’s relationship is portrayed with irresistible affection and humor. The old man says that there is nothing wrong with using an outside toilet.
Hinds’ Pop performance is beautiful, but Dench’s performance might move you to tears as Granny confronts Ma and Pa’s conflicting decision to leave.
Dornan, who is also fantastic, and Balfe (beguilingly bonny, even when she is in despair) will certainly win a few statuettes before the awards season ends.
The sentimentality in the image might seem a bit too strong for some. However, it is difficult not to accept it.
It was a wonderful experience. Van Morrison is an amazing composer (Branagh gives Pa Moondance a great homage). It is also a wonderful decision to film in monochrome. This is because, when people go to the photographs, they are briefly inundated in colour.
This is a delightful and efficient way to demonstrate how cinema enriches our lives, particularly back in the days of gray.
Belfast’s short duration is another joy: it takes just over an hour.