A Protestant family must make a decision on whether or not to leave
Belfast after a civil war with the Catholics breaks out in their neighborhood.
Written and Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Jude Hill, Lewis McAskie, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, Lara McDonnell
Oscar Wins - Best Original Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
(Ciarán Hinds), Best Supporting Actress (Judi Dench),
Best Director, Best Sound, Best Original Song (Down to Joy)
Kenneth Branagh has always been a fairly mixed bag of a director, at least in my time. He was hailed as the next Olivier thanks to his Shakespearean output in the early to mid 90's. Since then, he's sat in the director's chair for such films as Thor, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Cinderella, two updated Agatha Christie adaptations, and that Godawful Artemis Fowl movie. So, mostly hit or miss. But there's a personal touch you can feel in Belfast. Reportedly, it's based on a true account from Branagh's childhood, as he grew up in Belfast in the 60's. This is easily his best film as a director, and may finally win him an Oscar.
For those of you who don't follow world history, there has been an ongoing civil war in Ireland between the Catholics and the Protestants ever since Henry VIII decided he wanted to see other people. Northern Ireland in the 20th century was a powder keg, and it went off from time to time. Belfast in the 60's was troubling, and Branagh shows us the Protestant/Catholic strife through the eyes of a young boy who just wants his family to stay together. The performances are all believable and endearing, and Branagh uses a selection of Van Morrison songs to keep an upbeat tone throughout.
I'll be the first to admit that Belfast isn't for everyone. Films about a Northern Irish family struggling to stay optimistic in the face of adversity aren't going to be everyone's cup of tea. But the way Branagh approached a potentially depressing subject with an unchecked sense of optimism and joy just made me smile.