An autobiographical movie „Belfast“, that came out in 2022, according to director Kenneth Branagh, is about „the search for hope and joy in the face of violence and loss“. It is a sentimental memoir not only about the historical events but also about the families and hopeful moments that helped to live on during those tremulous times.
„Director Kenneth Branagh is known for film adaptations such as Shakespeare‘s „Hamlet“ and Agatha Christie‘s „Murder on the Orient Express “, reveals a personal story from his childhood in his newest movie „Belfast“. A story filled with heartfelt and sentimental memories earned Branagh his first Oscar for best original screenplay.
The movie is about a family, living in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1969. It is a story about the city, which the director Kenneth Branagh remembers himself from his childhood: kids playing in the streets Van Morisson’s songs, people dancing, everyday bustle, which turns to riots, Molotov cocktails, and division.
The time pictured in the movie is the start of the upcoming 30 yearlong conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles. The conflict arose between two groups – Catholics (republicans), who wanted Northern Ireland to become a part of the Republic of Ireland, and Protestants (unionists), who wished to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Peaceful protests developed into an armed conflict that lasted for 30 years. During that time, more than 3.5 thousand people were killed. The characters in the movie, who are living during the starting conflict, face a dilemma: whether to leave Belfast and their beloved home or remain in the city, filled with dangers and unrest.
The main character Buddy (Jude Hill) is a 9-year-old boy, growing up in the Northern part of Belfast. We watch the movie through the naive, imaginative boy’s eyes, who is going through nostalgic parts of childhood. He has a normal childhood, despite arising dangers in Belfast: he plays football, fights dragons in his imagination, goes to the cinema, tries to catch the attention of his crush in school, and does not imagine life anywhere else, but in Belfast.
Caitriona Balfe plays Buddy’s mother, who is raising him and his elder brother William (Lewis McAskie). Jamie Dornan plays Pa – a father who is hardly ever at home but wishes to keep his family safe. He works in England, in order to support his financially unstable family. The protestant family lives in a neighborhood, where Protestants and Catholics lived in peace thus far and want to distance themselves from the conflict. As the conflict grows and the family sees the worsening situation and violence in the streets of their beloved city, the parents look for a way to keep their children safe. Pa wants to leave the city, even though Ma and the children find it hard to leave Belfast – their home, memories, and people, whom they have known for their whole lives.
Autobiographical elements in the movie and small details create a warm and sincere picture of the director’s childhood. Monochromic scenes of Belfast’s streets and everyday life are filled with nostalgic memories from the director’s childhood: Kenneth Branagh, just like the main character Buddy, was raised in a protestant family in Belfast and was 9 years old when the conflict in Northern Ireland began. Despite these similarities, Branagh said that he tried to capture a universal experience, which is familiar to many.
Even though the timeframe in the movie highly affects the plot, there is little attention to historical and political events – they are only in the background. Telling the story through the eyes of a child helps to break away from political problems. The director shows joys that are found in everyday life, which helped to deal with challenges during the difficult period. Even when the family is facing financial difficulties, and health problems and are living during a restless time period, they manage to find hope in one another and simple everyday life moments.
The movie talks about painful historical events, the director managed to keep happy and positive moments in the center. The childish optimism and positivity make it a bright, nostalgic, and happy story, which will bring back childhood memories to anyone watching.