Belfast Film Review
'Belfast' takes us back to Northern Ireland in the late '60s, where the feud between Catholics and Protestants is constant, especially in the mixed-religion neighborhood where this multigenerational family that the film follows resides. We get to see these tumultuous times all through the eyes of Buddy (Jude Hill), the youngest son of the family, who is trying to make sense of all that is happening. The family is struggling to get by, and caught between a feud in their neighborhood with a segment of other protestants, who want the family to fight against the Catholics instead of living together in harmony with them. Through the hard work of the father, an opportunity presents itself for the family to be able to leave their home in pursuit of greener pastures, and the plot revolves around all of these events and decisions that they face.
The story always has something going on and will keep audiences interested enough, but what makes it really stand out is the stellar acting from the cast. The performances of the family members brought each of their characters to life with authenticity, whether it was the cute sentimentality and innocence portrayed by Buddy (Jude Hill) or the strained yet loving relationship between Buddy's Ma (Caitriona Balfe) and Pa (Jamie Dornan). I also have to note that Pop (Ciarán Hinds) and Granny (Judi Dench) were the perfect older married couple to not only provide some comic relief but were also crucial to anchor one half of the story that Branagh wanted to show.
This personal tale for the director was greatly reflected in the realism of the dialogue, the sets, and wardrobe, which propels the audience right into this lived-in community and era where this family drama unfolds. The cinematography highlights the amazing production design, retaining a high level of authenticity as it continually paces through the major story points.
Belfast is shot almost entirely in black and white, which serves the story well in helping to echo the polarity shown throughout the film. We saw this when the fierce reverend preached choosing the right or wrong path, as well as the ultimatum given by the chief protagonist, or deciding to stay or leave Belfast for the chance at a better future. A few choice scenes were chosen to be in color and according to Branagh, they were the memories of his past which stood out to him, and naturally, this took the form of film and entertainment experienced as a child.
Overall it was an enjoyable film to watch at TIFF and was definitely a crowd-pleaser with its many highly relatable story elements, moments of sentimentality, and several laughs.
Editing and Effects: 7/10
Overall: 4/5 stars
Review Contributor: James Larmour