The irony of the man who tells the thick Irishman jokes was usually the same man who complained that the Irish were coming over to London taking his job essentially without any awareness of what he was implying. That Irishman here is Da (Jamie Dornan) ,a far from daft man but instead a highly skilled Belfast carpenter who is working most of his time in England away from his family in order to pay a backdated tax bill. This is Belfast 1969 in the midst of the misnamed The Troubles which is a bit like calling World War II ‘The Squabbles’ and the film picks up with the kids playing pretend battle in the street only to soon find their street dissolve into riot as Protestants run amok in the Catholic residents road smashing windows and burning cars. It’s a traumatizing jolt for the children suddenly dragged inside by their mothers and hiding under the kitchen table for safety
Buddy (Jude Hill), whose eyes the film is seen through, and his older brother Will (Lewis McAskie) have only their mother (Caitriona Balfe) to protect them but there’s a tremendous sense of love and care in their extended family that includes their grandparents living in the house too. Played by Judi Dench & Ciaran Hinds she makes quips at the men’s expense and indulge the boys like any grandparents would. The film alternates between these scenes of a close family which are often the best scenes, and those of fermenting violence that’s never far from bursting through and often does. Their father’s return each weekend often sees him increasingly pressurized but ever more resistant into protection payments to a self appointed enforcer neighbour initiating a Protestant protection racket and is rightly accused of being a ‘jumped up gangster’. Money is tight not helped by the outstanding tax bill and combined with the ever present threat of public disorder the appeal of taking his family to Canada or Australia away from the tax man’s grasp urges him to take the family to far safer climes and it’s the cause of much distress to his wife but especially Buddy
Shot in Black & White with flashes of occasional lavish colour Belfast is lovingly shot in what is and is Kenneth Branagh’s most personal film. As an actor himself he has coaxed a great performance from an endearing Jude Hill backed up by a uniformly excellent cast and the consummate ease of seasoned scene stealer Judi Dench in what is essentially a love letter from Branagh to Belfast.
Watch the Belfast trailer HERE
Find out about the hidden Belfast easter egg HERE