Review: Belfast | red brick film

Kenneth Branagh’s last film, Belfast, is set on a street in 1969 and focuses on a family as they experience the beginnings of the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the division within their community that this time has caused. I went to see this film with my mother, because Belfast is part of our family history. My dad is from Northern Ireland and lived through that era, but it’s not something we talk about often. However, we felt it was important to see this film and see the perspective of The Troubles through the eyes of main character Buddy (Jude Hill), a 9-year-old Protestant boy who is confused about what is going on around him, and why his family may have to leave.

Shot entirely in black and white, the film has a historical feel to it, and what I really enjoyed were the interesting camera angles and cutaways that pieced together the film. Between each scene there are cutaways to different locations around Belfast, such as the Titanic Quarter or long shots across the Lough. These shots helped us situate ourselves in the wider area of ​​Belfast, as much of the film takes place on the street where the family lives and in the house of Buddy’s grandparents. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos has worked on all of Branagh’s more recent films, and in this film experimented with low and high angle shots, extreme close-ups and sweeping shots of the surrounding mountains. Belfast. This gave the film a more experimental documentary feel as it was not the typical imagery of a Hollywood film. The film is a semi-autobiographical account of Branagh’s own childhood in Belfast before his family moved to Berkshire, and the film school is the same one Branagh attended. After reading Branagh’s life, there are similarities throughout the story to his own experiences.

During the film, there are moments of found footage from news at the time, which added to the authentic feel of the film. The costumes and set were well thought out, and even though we couldn’t see the colors, it still felt like we were back in 1969. Many of the actors are from Northern Ireland, and their accents and acting have added to the authenticity. However, Judi Dench, who played the grandmother, struggled with the Northern Irish accent, and it distracted me from escaping from the cinema, as I was constantly reminded that she was acting. While his acting was strong, his accent wasn’t, and I felt that let his performance down. Some of the school children in the film were also very obviously English – throughout Northern Ireland, one would hope to find actors with the right accent. Jamie Dornan starred as Pa, working in England and struggling to protect his family from afar. His performance was very compelling, and I really felt for his character and the identity crisis he faces as he struggles with the idea of ​​moving his family away from home. Ma (Catríona Balfe) and her determination to provide for her sons while ensuring that they grow up to be kind young men was reminiscent of my own Irish family members, and makes her Branagh’s own mother, an “Irish mum “. The anonymous parental figures in the film meant they could belong to anyone – a universal mother and father – and ensured that the focus remained largely on Buddy.

The music ensured even the moments of silence were Irish

One of the best parts of the film was the score, the sound of which was largely made up of Van Morrison’s music. A Northern Irish musical icon, the music ensured that even moments of silence were Irish to some degree. As it unfolds at the start of the Troubles, the focus is on the thoughts and feelings of Buddy and his family, and we see the effect the Troubles have on them, rather than the whole town as a whole. other films or documentaries have shown it. There are moments of violence and bombings that may bother some viewers, but they’re infrequent, and for much of the plot, the real violence is far away – the street is shielded from over a way. The film was very emotional at times and there were tears from some viewers, as we sympathized with the fears of young Buddy experiencing real violence and vitriol for the first time.


While the interesting soundtrack and filming techniques made the film unique and personal, some of the actors’ faux Irish accents meant that I kept drifting away from the escapism of cinema and film, and that I therefore couldn’t fully engage with the characters and their experiences. It’s an important film in the history of Northern Ireland, but the cast of English actors meant it wasn’t an all-Irish film, and so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted . Having seen some of Branagh’s other films this is not his best work but it is indeed his most personal and I enjoyed that we got a glimpse of his own childhood and the childhood of many others Northern Irish children like him.

Rating: 6/10

Belfast is now out in cinemas

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