60-Second Review – Belfast

O&A movie columnist Mark Fields’ quick take on the latest releases

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Belfast: Branagh’s Lyrical Homage to His Irish Childhood

There’s already Oscar buzz about this mostly autobiographical movie, and little wonder. Belfast, written and directed by actor/director Kenneth Branagh, is a cinematic love letter to Branagh’s childhood in that Northern Ireland city at the start of the sectarian upheaval known as “the Troubles.” Shot mostly in sumptuous black-and-white (with meaningful splashes of color), the movie explores the difficult decision that one Protestant family must make when they are confronted with violence in their own mixed neighborhood and the expectation that they will take sides against their friends. The actors – Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds, and young Jude Hill as Buddy, Branagh’s stand-in – are uniformly excellent in restrained, lived-in performances. The film’s hybrid style, which is part linear narrative and part tangential memory, requires the viewer’s buy-in. But once that is willingly granted, Belfast is a heart-felt and lyrical meditation about growing up amidst tension and sacrifice.

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