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

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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.

Mark Fields
Mark Fields has reviewed films for Out & About since October 2008. In addition, he has written O&A profiles of documentarian Harry Shearer and actress Aubrey Plaza. Mark also has written on the movies for several publications in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and his home state of Indiana, where he also served as on-air movie critic for Indianapolis’s public radio station. Mark has been an adjunct instructor of film history at Rowan University since 1998. A career arts administrator, he is the executive director of Wilmington’s Grand Opera House and now lives on Market Street. Mark spent the fastest 22 minutes of his life as an unsuccessful contestant on Jeopardy…sadly, there were no movie questions.