The movie Belfast is a powerful family movie brimming with joy and hope in the middle of the most difficult and tenuous of situations. This indie film received seven nominations at the 94th Academy Awards, including Best Picture. This is a staggering achievement for an indie film.
I honestly thought it could win Best Picture. The bookies had it as the early favourite, but in the end it was pipped at the post for number two. Thankfully, Belfast at least received an award for Best Original Screenplay. It was named one of the best films of 2021 by the National Board of Review.
Belfast has won dozens of awards at film festivals around the globe and just as many nominations. But why are you so excited about this movie, Warwick?
Well firstly, it features the story of a family in a turbulent period of history through a child’s eyes. Children by nature are hopeful and inquisitive. It is something we forget as adults, but we do well to remember.
Perhaps it is best for you to see this movie through someone else’s eyes first. Wenlei Ma tells the story well in her article titled “Belfast: Kenneth Branagh’s deeply personal ode to a time, a place and a people.”
“Even if no one told you Belfast is a personal story for filmmaker Kenneth Branagh, it would become patently obvious pretty fast.
There’s an air about it, an authenticity and poignancy that feels viscerally personal, as if it was plucked from the long-ago memories of someone with genuine affection and love for a certain time in their lives.
That someone is Branagh, and Belfast is the semi-autobiographical story of his childhood growing up in a city torn apart by sectarian violence as families struggle to make sense of their home and where they belong.
But even with that fractious backdrop of 1969, Belfast is a story with grace and humanity – and above all, it’s about family.
Branagh’s onscreen stand-in is Buddy (newcomer Jude Hill), a sweet and playful nine-year-old whose world turns when his street is besieged by a group of Protestant rioters targeting the Catholic side of the street.
Tanks and barricades litter the street as standover men pressure Buddy’s father Pa (Jamie Dornan) to join the cause. Pa has been working in England and the ongoing violence at home plus the family’s never-ending debt leads to him to think about migrating to Australia or Canada.
But Ma (Caitriona Balfe) isn’t into the idea, anchored by the overwhelming feeling that no matter what’s happening, Belfast is home.
Those ideas of home and family are so intricately linked in Belfast and it’s what fuels this captivating and emotionally resonant film that would speak to anyone who’s ever had to grapple with belonging.
Belfast is brimming with heart, tinted with this great love Branagh clearly has for his hometown and his early years. Maybe that means there’s a rose-coloured glasses effect over Belfast, but the film never declared itself as some warts-and-all exposé about the (political/religious) Troubles.
Those films already exist. Belfast is about how people can still experience beauty and love in the face of the chaos around them.”
This is what Don Shanahan, a respected Rotten Tomatoes film critic, had to say about the film:
“The movie warms you with mirth and destroys you with punch, just as a proper Irish creation should.”
Film critic Christy Lemire had this to say about the film,
“Belfast” is unquestionably Kenneth Branagh’s most personal film to date, but it’s also sure to have universal resonance. It depicts a violent, tumultuous time in Northern Ireland, but it does so through the innocent, exuberant eyes of a nine-year-old boy. And it’s shot in gentle black-and-white, with sporadic bursts of glorious colour.”
Another critic Steve Pond also said,
“Visually stunning, emotionally wrenching and gloriously human, “Belfast” takes one short period from Branagh’s life and finds in it a coming-of-age story… Plus it’s funny as hell – because if anybody knows how to laugh in the face of tragedy, it’s the Irish.”
So you can see, I am not alone in my enthusiastic recommendation of this film. As to the suitability of this film for children, you be the judge. It has an M Rating for Mature Themes & Coarse Language, but I have seen worse M films. If I was rating the film, I would give Belfast a PG rating, or in other words, Parental Guidance. It’s your call.
The reason I am so passionate about Belfast is that it is a celebration of family, motherhood and fatherhood. It is also a profound celebration of childhood. Belfast has an underlying redemptive theme — a moral tale, if you like. Yes, it has some gritty moments, but so does life.
The good news is, Belfast is almost still in many cinemas across the country. Belfast is still in the top ten movies in Australia at number seven. Just like most of this year’s Academy Award nominees, Belfast is available to stream at home. You can currently rent the film online via Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, YouTube, Redbox or Vudu. You can also rent the movie via AMC On Demand or Alamo On Demand.
Yours for More Family-Friendly Movies,
First published at Dads4Kids.