Photo By: Noah Nickel via Prime Video
Belfast takes the audience on a trip to late 1960s Northern Ireland through the eyes of a nine-year-old. The movie has been nominated for seven Academy Awards and, after having watched the film, it appears to be a strong contender for virtually every category it’s been nominated in.
Writer-director Kenneth Branagh tells a semi-autobiographical story of his childhood with Belfast. The story follows Buddy (Jude Hill), a child caught in the middle of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in the city of Belfast. Throughout the film, the audience sees Buddy trying to make sense of the situation unfolding around him while still trying to have a childhood.
This deeply emotional movie succeeds at depicting a complex situation through the perspective of a young child. This is done in subtle ways, such as angling the camera low in certain scenes, so the audience is looking up at the actors as if they were standing at the height of a child. Conversations between adults are overheard by Buddy, putting the emphasis is always on the child rather than it being a story about his parents.
The conflict in Northern Ireland fades into the background in the eyes of the child as we are reminded of childhood priorities. The conflict is still present and shapes the lives of the community, but in the middle of all the turmoil, there are heartfelt moments between Buddy and different characters, mostly with his Pop (Ciarán Hinds) and his friend Moira (Lara McDonnell).
Little childhood moments, such as having your first crush at school, show that no matter what is going on in the environment around us, kids don’t stop being kids, once again highlighting the perspective of the child in this story.
In a situation where people are divided by religion and family history, the conversations between the children show the naivety of someone that age experiencing this type of conflict. There is a scene where Buddy is sitting with his friend Moira and she tells him that you can tell who is Catholic and Protestant by their name, but then Buddy becomes skeptical when they run into names that could be either. It’s curious seeing kids try to wrap their minds around such a complicated conflict.
The movie is shot in black and white which has a really neat effect, as it makes the whole thing feel like a distant memory. The music is excellent, the soundtrack is composed of mostly Van Morrison songs, and most importantly, it’s not overly saturated. The soundtrack is timed well and is spread out sporadically in scenes where it had something to add.
Overall, Belfast is a very good film. It checks off a lot of boxes for film critics which has led to the movie being called “Oscar bait”. No matter what it is, the movie is worth a watch, it’s a beautiful homage to childhood that deals with an interesting conflict that we don’t see depicted in film all too often.