With the 94th Oscars just around the corner ‘Belfast’ has a good shot at walking away with the biggest prize of the night; Best Picture.
A Director’s Story
Belfast is a very personal story for writer and director Kenneth Branagh. There is a reason why this film has personally connected with so much of the audience who gets to witness this masterpiece. Shot in black and white, Belfast tells the story of 1969 Ireland, more specifically Mountcollyer Street where the director grew up. This was the time of the ethno-nationalist conflict known as The Troubles. A conflict that began in the late 1960s and lasted for about 30 years caused so much uncertainty and pain for the citizens of Northern Ireland and further. One of those citizens was director Branagh himself at about the age of nine at the time when the conflict started. Despite the complexities of the conflict the movie chooses to tell the story through young Buddy’s eyes. The audience mostly experiences the situations with the same kind of confusion and fear that a child would. There is a lot going on at all times, but watching the film you’re never confused to the point that it takes you out of the movie-watching experience. It is beautifully shot and even more beautifully acted.
Jude Hill, at only 11 years of age, has delivered a nuanced performance that most child actors simply fail to. He is the lead of the film and thankfully he never falters or seems like he doesn’t belong. Caitriona Balfe as “Ma” and Jamie Dornan as “Pa” also do very well in the supporting roles. At the emotional core of the film though, are “Granny” and “Pop” played by the legendary Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds. None of the characters have actual names in the film but they are all perfectly fleshed out. There has to be a sense of holding back in the performances so that once the ‘outbursts’ happen you feel them more. This film excels at that. The story is not force-fed to you in any sense. Moreover, the fact that it is based on a true story of Branagh’s childhood only adds to the mystique. Lastly, the references to Van Morrison’s classical music and a few other films of the period curate a feeling of wonder and help put you into the story seamlessly.
Accomplishments and Reception
Kenneth Branagh has recreated a very tumultuous time of his childhood and brought it to the big screen. Many of the people who are still alive from that time have commented on just how difficult it was to watch the movie because it brought back so many tough memories. These are perhaps the most important reviews director Branagh takes into consideration. However, it does also help that the film has been nominated for SEVEN Oscars at the upcoming 94th Academy Awards. That includes nominations for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture. This only further validates Branagh’s vision that he translated to the screen so beautifully. The way he was able to write a story that so many people felt a strong emotional connection with while also delivering a top performance behind the camera as the director is truly impressive. This is not an easy feat but he has accomplished it and was rightfully awarded for it.
Generally, outside of the many awards that Belfast has been nominated for, it has also been received well overall. Rotten Tomatoes has generated an 87% approval rating from 292 reviews. On IMDb so far it has a 7.4 from 27k ratings though it is currently trending at 18 so the ratings will come in more and more each day as people see it. The film’s beauty and child-like point-of-view in contrast with the heavy themes of banishment and conflict are also noteworthy. The way the story pays tribute to a certain community of people in a certain time with great energy is also very impressive. The marriage of Ma and Pa is also well-thought-out and very mature.
Without going into spoilers, the ending will leave you in tears. The story builds and builds until it all comes together at the end beautifully. It is deep, realistic, thoughtful, and written in a manner that only someone who has experienced the events first-hand could have. It’s obvious that the film would not work without the magic touch of director Branagh. He injects life into the movie and this is his passion project and success. There is a decent chance that in about a month Belfast will win a few Oscars and cement its legacy as one of the best movies of 2021.
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