Kenneth Branaughs Belfast is his love letter to those that stayed, those that left and those that were lost in his home land of Belfast Ireland. While it’s not truly a biopic of Kenneth’s own upbringing, it does replicate the period of his own childhood in Belfast where cultural tensions were extremely high during The Troubling 1960s. You can still feel a personal recollection is at play.
It tells the story of a family caught in the crosshairs of violence but it focuses on the youngest son – Buddy played by newcomer Jude Hill– and how he found ways to distract himself from a scary reality. There is a naïve participation in religion that creates some comfort of a higher power but a fear that comes with it. Then you have the other familiarities that a kid often finds in their lives, at home, at school, via sports–a love for football–adolescent crushes at school, all helpful distractions but this young boy’s ultimate escape was through movies. Doesn’t matter if it was via a television set at home or in the darkness of a movie theater, escaping into cinematic worlds as a kid is an adventure, a distraction and the source of some truly unforgettable memories. Of course this is only one piece of life but it can be the most powerful resource at a kid’s disposal.
Belfast is great because these adolescent experiences were once similarly our own and regardless of the generation or location they will continue to be translatable experiences of future children. I find serious movies concerned with the lives of children to be so powerful. Belfast is a contagious recollection that will get you thinking about your own childhood.
Kenneth Branaugh once again does wonders as a director and it results in one of his best films to date, possibly an Oscar winning effort. It’s found a place in my top films of 2021.