One often finds that it is when filmmakers are the most honest with themselves and most authentic with their stories that they form a transcendent connection with their audiences. Director Kenneth Branagh’s personal tale “Belfast” becomes such a triumph purely because of the deeply personal nature of the storyline.
This film is a piece of art. Not only is it technically perfect, but the story also holds up as well. The sound design stands out better than most. It is very natural, warm, engaging, and active. You always feel like you are in these small rooms with the characters, as dialogue is realistically placed within the sound field. The cinematography is consistently well planned and executed. The use of color and the black and white tones is cleverly used to highlight the emotional journey of the boy.
The young lead actor, Jude Hill, is quite something in the role. He is able to play off legendary actors such as Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds like a seasoned pro. Caitríona Balfeas and Jamie Dornan as his parents make a perfect couple, and they get to run the gamut of emotions in a short time. Veteran’s Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench expectedly shine in their roles as the grandparents, effectively communicating the love they have for their homeland and their helplessness in seeing neighbor turn against neighbor and friend against friend in the name of religion. It is evident from each frame that Branagh has put his heart and soul into this film and his love for his historically fractious hometown is evident in the way he frames the city itself as the protagonist.
Kenneth Branagh’s personal touch shines all the way through right to the end credits with those words – For all who left, for all who stayed on, and for all who got lost! The best part is that this film is all about optimism and life’s small moments which outweigh everything else. An easy Oscar Best Picture contender, surely!