Every once in a while, a movie comes along that could get even the pickiest eaters out of the house – and back hours later in better shape.
It is the gemstone of 2022.
A beautiful coming of age story, a perfect celebration of family and a fitting tribute to the goodness of a town and its people, Belfast crams a lot in an hour and a half.
Writer-director Kenneth Branagh’s return to his hometown to explore his early years inspired him to deliver his best work – poignant, funny and timeless. He’s the kind of charmer that parents or grandparents watched every time he was on TV. It just might be one of your own must-see films for years to come.
Told through the eyes of nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) Belfast is set in the final months of 1969. Head spinning, Buddy tries to figure out how the safety of his world with Ma (Caitríona Balfe), Pa (Jamie Dornan), his brother Will (Lewis McAskie) and Nanny (Judi Dench ) and Pop (Ciarán Hinds) are threatened by the toxicity that has been unleashed in the streets around him and the weight of the adult world. The fear is there from the opening scene, but also the love, the pleasure and the mischief that anyone would be lucky enough to have among the albums in their head.
Filmed in black and white to evoke the magic of old photographs, Belfast glides from snapshot to snapshot with the kind of enchantment one feels when turning the pages of an album. Through the brilliant performances – an ensemble in the best way – we see ourselves and those who matter most to us in all these images. Behind the lens, Branagh’s attention to detail is matched only by the size of his heart as the story reaches its moment of truth.
The final dedication is as wonderful as anything before it, capturing all the emotions felt while watching. It’s a triumph for the director, his cast and crew, and places it at its center.
It’s also proof, if need be, that you can go home.