What was it Mike Nichols once said, a film is like a person and either you trust it or you dont? I think that could be said for Belfast but I thought of it more about a kind of personality that a filmmaker brings to a work as well as the cast and everyone else involved, and on that note Belfast to me is a total sweetheart of a movie, where it has many moments where it's quite cute and charming, but it's always based around the fact that this family is doing their best and more or less succeeding in caring for one another and (as Dornan's dad points out towards the end to the little boy when he asks about if a Catholic can be with a Protestant) what the basic power of kindness can do.
It's a film that manages the feat of having sentiment and even some sentimentality, but earning it throughout because (outside of maybe the bookends where the "Troubles" and all that horrible violence in the streets comes knocking) it doesn't cheapen what the stakes are or what these characters are going through. The basic question of "staying or leaving" is not one we haven't seen before in other films, and I'm sure we'll see again, yet Branaugh as writer/director gives the people here this honesty that is a family that is there together and there is this struggle (mostly for dad) to keep it together.
This is beautifully rendered as well with this point of view coming from the little boy (standing in for Branaugh at that time I can assume but as with like Roma who knows) as he peers in on these arguments and conversations that have a repetition that isn't repetitive, if that makes sense. If you've been in a family that has money problems, this is just the way it is, and Dornan and especially Balfe have this chemistry that works perfectly.
Another thing in its favor: you think the little boy Buddy (played by Jude Hill) will be cute and his interactions with others, especially the grandparents (good lord do Dench and Hinds, the latter I hope gets an Oscar, steal every scene they're in) could get tiresome, but Branaugh manages to keep him engaging and this mix that's hard to describe where he's universal and specific, like you don't even have to be a little boy just like at some time if you were young and trying to figure out a world that has so much stuff in it and there's the escape of movies and the wonder of astronauts alongside the horror of men in the streets throwing molotov cocktails... OK that part isn't everyone's experience, but there's little things Branaugh gets so right as a writer; my favorite is when his older cousin ropes him in as part of a "gang" initiation to steal something from the local sweet shop. How that resolves itself is ::chefs kiss::
This whole thing reminds me of like what if you took one of those stories of childhood via Frank McCourt (or Malachy, one of those) and imbued it with a lot more warmth and a generosity of spirit, and it's in general a difficult movie to dislike or be too hard on without sounding like a grouch without any feelings. At the same time, I am critical of how the film opens and comes to a climax inasmuch as the "Troubles" set pieces are shot and presented in this tremendous manner that, of course, are impossible to ignore as far as the history at the time in Ireland and that city as a whole
But it can't help but feel like... this is where it's a MOVIE in large letters, shot in an intense style like this is where it all becomes so overwhelming, which makes sense given the POV of this boy, and at the same time it loses that intimacy you have throughout the rest of the film, where it's power is in showing life's little moments having even more of a lasting impact. Also, with the one supporting character trying to force the Dad to pick a side as the one person I didn't quite believe (not the actor so much as the character, kind of one note you know). As a small technical aside, as much as I like Branaugh's eye for compositions (both usual and unusual, his framing is off in interesting ways), the digital quality of it all is distracting for me, and I wish this was shot on film for that crisper look.
All that doesn't take away from the pathos that is all here, with humor that works because it's based around like how much we may have enjoyed being around people like this in our families. Is it idealized? I don't know, but it doesn't come across as that, if anything it shows that the human soul and spirit can be resilient and this is a lesson for kids all over but also ones for the adults, too. How is one any *good* in a family? Hard to say, except it comes down to being there and not giving up. That's the kind of tone Belfast has, and it is filled with little grace notes - one that I'm sure to remember is when Dench's grandma tells the grandpa before he has to go to the hospital that she will go with him by bus and take him in and stay with him till its all done and then take him home. She doesn't state it in any way that sounds false, and none of (admittedly very good) Van Morrison music to score this beat. It's just two people who have a love that is self evident by actions.
So, in short: a sweet-heart of a movie, not to mention last but certainly not least that this is a fun time of expressing how remembering history through some pop-culture filtering can be entertaining and insightful (High Noon song, anyone?)
A young boy and his working class family experience the tumultuous late 1960s.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
December 02, 2021 at 05:50 AM