Starring: Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Morgan, and Jude Hill.
Written & Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Rating: *** ½
Belfast Movie Review: Growing up in Belfast at the peak of the Catholic-Protestant conflict in 1969 was not all a bed of thorns for writer-director Kenneth Branagh.To be honest, I saw Branagh looking at his childhood in Belfast with rose-tinted glasses. And the more he relies on Haris Zambarloukos’ reflective black-and-white photography to give his nostalgic urges a wide berth, the more euphoric the broken world of warfare and strife appears to be.
Not that there is anything wrong with a happy interpretation of an inherently bleak past. We all tend to shut out the ugly dark passages in our memory bank. This doesn’t necessarily make the memory bank any less bankable.
In spite of that dizzying glow of warm recollection that bathes Belfast in a blaze of colours and emotions, it seems to be an unimpeachably scrupulous representation of the past, down to the street where our little 9-year old hero Buddy(newcomer Jude Hill, doing that Shirley Temple acting template , whether by design or willinilly, I can’t say) lives with his harried mother(Caitríona Balfe, dazzling in her workingclass sexiness) and grandparents(played by Ciarán Hinds and an almost comically revamped Judi Dench).
Absentee father (Jamie Dornan) keeps making weekend appearances to argue with his mother on whether they should all move to England. Or else the family is at the movies singing along in Chitty Chiity Bang Bang or ogling at Raquel Welch in One million Year BC.
Interestingly the films that the family watches in movie theatres are in colour while the family is throughout shot in black-and-white , imbuing the ambience with a sepia complexion suggesting a close link between memory and colour(or the lack of it).
Belfast is a beguiling blend of realism and style. It is smokily shot to convey a sense of ongoing seductiveness as Ireland burns with religious strife. The emotional scenes are sniffles in sly motions of cryptic emotions. Every actor catches on to Kenneth Branagh’s charmed memory waltz , hopping and skipping as he does from a drama of despair to a comedy of manners like Jane Austen on a Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote-trip .
The mood of the presentation, though deceptively upbeat, secretes a deep sense of loss and when little Buddy finally leaves his troubled neighbourhood in Ireland with his family, we get a heartbreaking closeup of grandma Judi Dench whispering, ‘Go, go, and don’t look back.’
If only life’s choices were that simple.