BELFAST- Rated PG-13 – 1 hr. 38 mins.

DIRECTED & WRITTED BY: Kenneth Branagh

STARRING:  Jude Hill, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds and Lew McAskie

As the anticipation builds for most of us movie lovers this time of year, as we all wait in anticipation for the “best of the best” films of 2021 to finally arrive, believe me when I tell you that the wait is officially over!  Kenneth Branagh’s latest creation, which just happens to be an autobiographical journey into his life as a youngster, growing up in Belfast Ireland amongst the troubles that begin to brew, between the Protestants and the Catholics, circa late 1960’s.

And as this masterpiece in filmmaking takes a hold, we venture from present day Belfast, all colorful and beautiful to behold, back to a day of constant turmoil for young Buddy (Jude Hill), as he runs the streets of his wonderful neighborhood, oblivious at first to the world around him.  But quickly it seems Buddy and his brother Will (Lewis McAskie), find themselves amidst the angst that is engulfing the streets of their once quiet and surreal neighborhood.  When Pa (Jamie Dornan) returns home from his work abroad, it seems that Ma (Caitriona Balfe) can no longer turn a blind eye to what is happening all around them.  With Granny (Judi Dench) and Pop (Ciaran Hinds) just blocks away, family time is the best time for everyone involved, as Buddy stops by almost daily to check in on them.  But as the streets of Belfast continue to erupt around them, the old adage “family first” very quickly becomes the battle cry of this close-knit unit, as Ma and Pa must decide if the homeland they love, and being close to the family they love, is the right choice for them at the present, or if leaving Belfast, and chaos that continues to erupt, is the only choice if they want to keep their family together…

Jamie Dornan (left) stars as “Pa” and Jude Hill (right) stars as “Buddy” in director Kenneth Branagh’s BELFAST, a Focus Features release. Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features
Caitriona Balfe stars as “Ma” in director Kenneth Branagh’s BELFAST, a Focus Features release. Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features
(L to R) Caitriona Balfe as “Ma”, Jamie Dornan as “Pa”, Judi Dench as “Granny”, Jude Hill as “Buddy”, and Lewis McAskie as “Will” in director Kenneth Branagh’s BELFAST, a Focus Features release. Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features
(L to R) Judi Dench as “Granny”, Jude Hill as “Buddy” and Ciarán Hinds as “Pop” in director Kenneth Branagh’s BELFAST, a Focus Features release. Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features

Beautifully crafted in every way – whether you find yourself becoming engrossed in the story unfolding before your eyes, or in the images of turmoil that are even more intense throughout this films black and white landscape, Kenneth Branagh’s childhood story plays out perfectly, no matter how you want to slice it!  BELFAST managed to capture me, heart, and soul, and it will do the same for you. The most incredibly touching performance unveils itself throughout this one too, as we meet the adorable newcomer to the big screen, Jude Hill.  This young man’s performance is so genuine and powerful throughout, that it literally envelopes every inch of the screen.  Mark my words, this young man will be cast in his next big adventure very soon, that I am sure of!  Branagh’s latest autobiographical tale has even surpassed a couple of my other favorite films that he sat in the Director’s chair for, including 2011’s THOR, 2015’s the live-action CINDERELLA and my favorite, until now, 2017’s MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. 

I was also very intrigued and excited to also see that Jamie Dornan can act, and rather quite well, way beyond what we have seen from him in his role as Christian Grey in the 50 Shades saga.  I was also moved by Judi Dench and Ciarian Hinds performances throughout, playing the parents that will never leave their beloved country, no matter how bad things get.  I also loved Caitronia Balfe’s portrayal as a flawed, but very passionate mother, and wife, as she longs to keep her family, and the life she loves, from vanishing into thin air.  BELFAST is going to be receiving lots of accolades once award season arrives, as in my estimation, this is the one all the other films of 2021, are going to be judged against.  And if you love films filled with fantastic music, then BELFAST is also for you, as the soundtrack from the time and place we are inhabiting throughout this film, just comes shining through!  And beyond its consummate greatness that I have explained thus far, I would also like to share that BELFAST is also one of those fabulous cinematic finds that everyone should experience on a big screen, at a theatre near you, and no other way if you can avoid it!

9/10

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