Best Films of 2021
#6 – Belfast
Kenneth Branagh’s filmography as a director is split almost down the middle between high-brow literary adaptations (particularly Shakespeare) and high-budget popcorn fare.
The same man who gave us definitive takes on Henry V and Hamlet is responsible for Thor and Artemis Fowl.
But his Belfast is something completely different. This is an achingly personal film, a romanticized depiction of his early years in Northern Ireland before his family escaped The Troubles to settle in England.
Told through the eyes of 9-year-old Protestant Buddy (Jude Hill), the film depicts the violence visited upon Catholics by Protestant loyalists and the pressure on his father to join the cause. Buddy is aware of this struggle, but just as concerned about winning the affection of a girl in his class, or learning from his grandfather (Ciaran Hinds) how to fudge his math answers.
Buddy’s parents, played by the impossibly gorgeous Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe, want what’s best for the family but can’t bring themselves to leave the only home they’ve ever known.
Belfast is as simple and profound as that. Despite some heavy subject matter, it is sweet and very funny, lingering on the moments of grace that would stick in the memory of a boy surrounded by people who love him.
This is a beautiful story about what it means to love a place, and what it takes to leave it.