Kenneth Branagh takes us on a semi-autobiographical journey in Northern Ireland’s capital, Belfast during the tumultuous 1960’s following a young boy and his working class family.
Shot in breathtaking black and white, Belfast is a sentimental yet bittersweet memoir, showcasing the sweetness of childhood set against the Molotov-cocktail explosions and terror of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. It’s an intense juxtaposition — especially for a coming of age story, however Branagh handles the topic with such delicate care and personal touches, that as a viewer, I was totally captivated.
And on a personal note, I took a class in Belfast about the city’s history, so I felt very connected to the narrative.
Branagh doesn’t let any scenes linger, jumping from scene to scene in a disjointed fashion, however the filming is just gorgeous and nostalgic, that I’m willing to look past the bopping around (which, I’m assuming was a stylistic decision to reflect the protagonist’s childlike views) and just relish in the natural beauty of Belfast and its people.
Speaking of people, Belfast boasts strong performances, especially from Jamie Dornan and Caitronia Balfe, who play Pa and Ma. Their chemistry is undeniable and their tender strength is impressive. I also admired Judi Dench’s performance, but as you all may know, I admire Dench in everything. So I may be biased.
Overall, Branagh’s love letter to his hometown is no doubt going to be an Awards Season crowd pleaser, since everyone has a special place for their home.
Final Thoughts: Beautifully shot and passionately executed, Belfast is a beautiful tribute to Branagh’s home.