Kenneth Branagh, Ireland | United Kingdom 2021
Written and directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh, his semi-autobiographical film BELFAST transports us to the summer of 1969, a turbulent time of the Troubles, which centered around the real-life riots between the Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland.
Buddy is our nine-year-old protagonist, played by the newcomer Jude Hill, a jovial and kindhearted boy who lives in a close-knit working-class neighborhood with his older brother, father (Jamie Dornan), and mother (Caitriona Balfe). While most of his community identifies as Catholic, his Protestant family is left to deal with not only the growing political unrest around them but also with the stark reality of rising unemployment and economic hardship.
Unable to find work in Belfast, his father spends most of his time in London, leaving Buddy’s mother to manage the household alone, juggling her impressionable boys, ageing parents (played brilliantly by Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench), a cramped flat, and a relentless tax collector.
Despite the external turmoil surrounding Buddy, there’s still a sense of innocence and lightness throughout the film, which at times made me laugh and cry. Ultimately, it’s a true celebration of all things Irish, thanks in part to the soulful sounds of Van Morrison and the black and white cinematography. Branagh proves that no matter where you end up, your roots are what matter.