Belfast (2021) movie review
Belfast is a drama from writer/director Kenneth Branagh. Set in Belfast in the late 1960s, the film follows a young boy and his family struggling through The Troubles, the conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. The film opens in wide release this weekend after an impressive festival run that began in September and let to the film winning the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival.
If the words “Toronto Film Festival” don’t mean anything to you, Belfast is also looking at running as one of the top contenders for a Best Picture win this year at the Oscars. Still nothing? Well the film is a heartwarming drama about a family working to stick together through turmoil surrounding them. And while I don’t think this is the best family drama based loosely on the life story of its creator released in the last year (see 2020’s Minari for more info), Belfast deserves to be seen.
Kenneth Branagh, no stranger to directing, brings arguably his most personal approach to filmmaking yet, showcasing a film gleaming with small, intimate moments where a brief reaction lands with tremendous gravity. Sure the film is set during a tumultuous time, but the focus never leaves the family and the delicate conflict in each and every one of the characters.
As one might expect with this caliber of drama, the performances are fairly spectacular! Newcomer Jude Hill does a solid job, often holding his own against the rest of the cast! Caitriona Balfe was great, Judi Dench was great- I guess she finally got a better agent… Jamie Dornan was fantastic, and Ciarán Hinds might finally win an Oscar after acting in Hollywood for over forty years. More than just great performances though, everyone in the film gets these wonderful chances to explore character depth in the simplest and most profound ways, from a look to a line, and it lands so well! We as the audience are often places in the position of Buddy, not having a complete context to everything going on around us. But like a child would, we pick up on these little details and- wow that builds to a really solid finale!
The only negative thing I have to say about Belfast is that I don’t feel the need to rush out to see it again. The film is well shot and features some decent pacing thanks to some well placed song choices when it might feel a bit slow, but the overall structure does feel like it lacks momentum at times. I am not sure exactly why Minari resonated more with me, but it did. Each film focuses on a family coming together in times or hardship and both tell that story very well! But Belfast does feel like it could have more- something. Maybe a few more minutes with minor character to grow attachment, but the staying power feels a little underwhelming.
Still, Belfast is very good! I hate saying ‘very good’ like it was such an empty description, but that’s how I feel about it. I don’t particularly fall hear over heels over things like “black and white in a modern film.” No I save my filmmaking fanboy reactions for big budget, high concept sci-fi… But Belfast did stick with me, and it will probably grow on me for the next few months. Rachel gave the film an 8, and I’m thinking now that I should have had her write this review… For now, I think Belfast is worth seeing at least once, and if it wins Best Picture, I’ll be very happy for it! But I’m going to give it a 7/10 for now. Which means yeah, I gave the artistic Kenneth Branagh passion project the same rating as ‘Till Death (2021) with Megan Fox… But hey, that film is worth watching too!
So Belfast! Did you see it? What did you think? And what film are you calling for this year’s Best Picture win at the Oscars? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! Also stay tuned, because we have a whole lot of reviews coming soon! And as always, thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince