Road to the Oscars: Belfast

A nostalgic and personal tale on growing up

Luis Rios

More stories from Luis Rios


Poster of Belfast starring Caitriona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Doran, Ciarán Hinds and introducing Jude Hill.

What’s striking first about Belfast (2021) is the change of color to monochrome to reflect the shift in time and even tone as it starts with roaring violence through the eyes of a child. In this coming-of-age tale, there is a sense of tragedy throughout a seemingly feel-good film.  

In Director Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical Belfast (2021), we follow Buddy (Jude Hill) as he lives his young life during a tense August of 1969 in the Northern Ireland capital.  

There is a kind of romanticism throughout the movie’s tone, with upbeat music and quirky dialogue with the family. Buddy is such a well written and natural character and Hill does wonders in capturing the innocence and young awe in the role.  

Along with Buddy, his family is also a highlight of the movie. From the harsh reality and issues represented between Ma (Caitriona Balfe) and Pa (Jamie Dornan). Then to the somber sweetness when Buddy talks with Pop (Ciarán Hinds) and Granny (Judi Dench). There are numerous scenes showing that while it is sweet, there is still a major issue looming over every adult that is hard to suppress. 

Coupled with the great performances is an abundance of tasteful, wide, sharp and up-close camera shots. The cinematography, provided by Haris Zambarloukos, does well in placing a setting and capturing deep conversations while a naïve Buddy listens in the background.  

The usage of black and white throughout does well in representing that grime and somewhat reminiscent tone in the film. Then there are moments of color with plays and film on screen to signify the childlike wonderment in Buddy which amplify the monochrome solemn for the characters.  

With such a good family story Belfast (2021) provides, there is an even greater one within. In Branagh’s screenplay, there is a second story being told on the tensions between the Protestants and the Catholics. While there is an apparent vilifying of one side, throughout the violence, the story makes it apparent what it is really saying in how these events damage the lives of the children.  

Branagh’s memoir, Belfast (2021), is an incredibly personal coming of age story that is brimming with life through the heartbreak. The movie does wonders in showcasing the family and their dynamic through earnest lenses during their highs and lows. From the astonishing performances to the astounding cinematography, there is a great deal of nostalgia through the violence that makes for a complex and well worth viewing experience.   

Rating: 4 out 5 stars

Facebook Comments