In 1969 in Belfast we follow young Buddy who is experiencing the violence on his own street with his working-class family as he attempts to understand life.
Belfast is an utterly outstanding film and somewhat of a masterpiece in filmmaking, it’s not very often that a film manages to touch and blow me away in this manner. Everything about it felt so perfectly executed and I will now attempt to delve deeper into that and explain it in more detail.
As violence breaks out on the street where they live we are shown everything unfolding through Buddy’s eyes and how it makes him feel and how he doesn’t fully understand how serious it all is. Religion is at the core of the start of the violence as some of the protestants do not like having Catholics on the street and begin to attack, smash up and even bomb the houses of these people. Buddy cannot really understand this as some of these are children he goes to school with and families they are friends with.
His father works away in England and comes home every few weeks at the weekend and he very much looks forward to these weekends. Not being able to get any work in Belfast and having trouble with paying the tax man back was one of the main reasons he had to leave for steady and decent paid work. This leads to some options of the family leaving Belfast and making a fresh start. This was not something that his mother wanted to do and as we then hear from his Granny that she never left either. The increasing violence and the thought that Buddy and his older brother Will would get pulled inside some of the gangs and pretty much be radicalised was a real possibility.
The time Buddy spends with his Granny and Grandad, Pop was truly lovely and I think it will make everyone who has fond memories of their grandparents to relate and bring back some moments, as it certainly did for me. Getting advice from them and enjoying films / theatre together was something I absolutely adored.
The fact that Buddy was so innocent to everything going on around him was extremely emotional and just helped to highlight that children really can be moulded by the environment around them. It’s so pure to watch him enjoying the simple things in his life and that includes going to the cinema to see the latest films and playing football in the street. We don’t get to see a massive amount of Will his older brother but we do see that he has started to be pulled in to do deliveries.
The guilt from his father working away means that he is not there to protect them and I felt when he praised his wife for how she had raised the boys was so utterly heartfelt and wonderful, he accepted that she had done it mainly without him and that they are a credit to her. Throughout the film I really just felt a whole lot of emotion towards the events and the characters which certainly demonstrates how well they were put across on screen, I deeply cared about this family and hoped things would improve and get better for them.
The performances were all outstanding, what an incredible little actor Jude Hill is he pushed the boundaries of emotion and with everything being shown with his gaze looking on he did a truly terrific job in the leading role. Caitriona Balfe was brilliant as Ma and worked so very well in that role, good chemistry with Jamie Dornan who I may just be a little bit in love with now. I can’t even deny that I burst into tears when he sung “Everlasting love” and in all honesty I am not fully sure why that part made me cry so much! Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds were utter scene stealers when together or part, with not only amazing one liners but with so much wisdom given to their son and grandson. It really was so well cast and I am convinced that was one of the major aspects in it being all so wonderful.
Kenneth Branagh really had this as a passion project pouring his whole life and soul into the film, about his early life and memories of growing up in Belfast before moving to England and he deserves so much credit for that. Basing it on true events from his own childhood must have been bittersweet with some of the moments but I can confirm it has transferred so very well on screen. Keeping in with the Belfast theme the utterly outstanding soundtrack with ten songs from the incredible Van Morrison who was also a native.
As I have already mentioned it is not very often that a film makes me feel this way in terms of the absolute joy of it being incredible to watch, with an amazing story and performances. Yes, I enjoy going to see the superhero films and action films but this is true cinema and the main reason I love and enjoy watching films, every now and then a gem like this comes along and I realise just how much I utterly love getting lost in a story, a certain place, a certain time an outstanding film.