Once in a great while a film comes along that has perfect balance: joyful without being giddy, moving without being cloying, humorous without being silly and inspiring without being preachy. The kind of film that anyone, of any age, identity or belief system, can enjoy without reservation, and feel better for having seen it.
Belfast is that film.
Writer/director Kenneth Branagh has assembled a sublimely gifted cast to tell the story of a nine-year-old boy growing up in his native Belfast during the late ’60’s, when tension between Protestants and Catholics was reaching the boiling point.
The trailer alone is enough to make you shed a tear or two, possibly add it to your own list of best films of 2021. Take a look:
Once you see Belfast, you’re sure to agree with us. But here are 5 things to look for that will help you understand…
Why Belfast is One of the Best Films of 2021
1. The message!
Branagh has subtly crafted a film that stresses kindness and fairness in dealing with those who believe differently, which is such an important message in our own contentious times. But he also stresses family unity, love and respect for other generations, which are also vital. Myriad other positive messages can be found in Belfast, but none of them are blunt or manipulative. That’s the beauty of it.
2. The star!
The story is told through the eyes of Young Buddy, played by the impossibly adorable Jude Hill (we’re talking on an irresistible level with Baby Yoda). He looks to his family for guidance in navigating life, love, education and political upheaval. 11-year-old Hill, who has an authentic Belfast accent that will melt your heart, is one of the most engaging actors we’ve seen on screen in, like, forever.
The rest of the extraordinary cast!
The main adults in Buddy’s life are Ma (Caitriona Balfe, much more engaging than she is in Outlander) and Pa (Jamie Dornan, whose talent goes so far beyond 50 Shades it’s almost inconceivable). They navigate their own relationship with such touching affection, respect and tenderness. Granny (Judi Dench—just when you think she can’t get any better…) and Pop (Ciarán Hinds, who has appeared in literally hundreds of productions including There Will Be Blood and In Bruges, but this is the best you’ve ever seen him) are superlative as well.
Belfast is buoyed by the incomparable music of the city’s native son Van Morrison, whose music can be alternately ebullient, intimate and/or mournful, but always sublime. So clever of Branagh to go with Morrison’s work, rather than the overused pop hits of the time. The song that will be playing in your head once you leave the theater, however, is Dornan’s version of ‘Everlasting Love.’ That seen is unforgettable in the best way!
It’s for the whole family!
Belfast is rated PG-13 but most films, even those from Disney, are these days. And even Disney films deal with violence and death, especially involving parents, in the very beginning. Belfast has a completely different format. The mature content and violence are kept to a minimum, with only a few few frightening and menacing parts. But the love and kindness flow. Since everything comes from a nine-year-old’s point of view, we’re thinking everyone, from about seven to 107, will enjoy it.
All this goodness and it’s only a little over an hour and a half long? How can you possibly resist?