WE ARE beginning to see some films coming out now that have been written and produced during the lockdowns. The first genuinely interesting one – to me anyway – is Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical Belfast.
During the initial lockdown, Kenneth Branagh was meditating on his early life in Belfast and wrote a version of his story. He then enlisted Van Morrison to do the soundtrack and filmed it all in a Covid bubble September 2020.
Branagh has had a long and reasonably successful career in Hollywood, but perhaps not the career people thought he would after his huge start in the 1990s. He has become a good, not great, director for hire; has directed some average Marvel movies; did a live action Cinderella that was only OK; and has lately been adapting the Poirot novels (actually I have enjoyed them ). So I was looking forward to seeing something personal from him.
This is a fairly straightforward story about a young family at the beginning of ‘The Troubles’. They live in a mixed neighborhood and when Protestant gangs begin to target Catholic houses on their street, the violence is too close for comfort for the family and they must decide if they are going to continue to live in Belfast.
The mother and father are played by Jamie Dornan and Catriona Balfe – former models, and it shows – they look a little too good. The son, Buddy (Branagh surrogate ), is played very well by Jude Hill. The best performances in the film though are by Ciaran Hinds and Judy Dench who play the grandparents with good humour and pathos.
I liked the film fine, but only liked it. At worst, it just feels a little too polished, a little too much of a crowd pleaser. Even the violence is sometimes too romantic and cinematic, though Branagh would argue it is from a child’s perspective. To me, it just did not strike the right tone.
There are some really great moments in the film, one musical scene with Dornan singing ‘Everlasting Love’ is a real highlight, but I wanted to like it more than I ended up liking it. I am surprised to see the bookies have favoured it to win so many awards, I am not so sure it will win much, but it is a film that will find a second life on streaming – a perfect quiet night in Netflix movie.