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Belfast  (DVD)


Stars: Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Jude Hill, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds, Josie Walker, Lewis McAskie, Colin Morgan, Olive Tennant

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Branagh's semi-autobiographical account of (his) life in Belfast in 1969/70 at the outset of sectarian violence is an affectionate if unflinching portrait of the times, resolute in style, very skilfully written by Branagh himself, but often funny and determinedly upbeat, with performances that are always sympathetic.

Hill, as Buddy, the 9/10 year old Branagh character, Balfe as his Ma, Dornan as Pa and Dench as Granny are all spot on, as is Morgan as the local thug who incites the riots that fracture the central family's idyllic if fairly impoverished existence.

Perhaps best of all is Hinds as Grandad 'Pop', with wisdom or a wisecrack for every occasion. 'Helping' Buddy with his maths, he encourages him to write figures in such a way as to possibly confuse the teacher. 'But sir,' Buddy objects, 'there's only one right answer.' 'If that were so,' Pop replies wistfully, 'people wouldn't be blowing themselves up all over this town.'

I also liked Pop's story of the rent collector who, after collecting from everyone in his patch, was held up by a gunman, who promptly re-distributed the funds to the residents who had just coughed them up.
Of course, no one wants to leave Belfast, least of all Buddy, who has a crush on classmate Catherine (Tennant), but brochures on Australia and Canada are leafed through, and then Pa is offered a permanent job in England, just as the family is terrifyingly drawn into the latest episode of mob violence.

Excellent, emotive film-making that neither outstays its welcome nor patronises its audience.

David Quinlan

UK (Northern Ireland) 2021. UK Distributor: Universal (Focus). Black and white/colour by Panalux.
94 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 25 May 2022