TIFF 2021: Belfast dir. Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh delivers a stand out event at TIFF with his beautifully and lovingly made, Belfast. Featuring a gorgeous score by Van Morrison, this cinematic jewel is something to behold.

Equally awash in nostalgia as it is with the realities of the time, Belfast guides us to a little street that is the midst of sectarian troubles, as Catholic and Protestant religions come to violence with one another. There is a change in the air, not just religious, but social, styles are changing, and the economic realities are coming to a small home, number 96, to roost.

While his Pa (Jamie Dornan) works in England, coming home when he can afford to, Buddy (Jude Hill) lives with his Ma (Caitriona Balfe), and is doted on by his two loving, and lovely grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds). He’s enchanted by American westerns on the telly, and the emotional power of both the cinema and the stage (highlighted by the use of colour in a film shot almost entirely in black and white), and falling for the smartest girl in his class.

Life is a struggle, financially, and emotionally for the family (though a child’s eyes doesn’t see these things, the viewer feels the weight of them, even as they revel in Buddy’s escapades), and though there are true issues to be sorted out, job, backpaying taxes, rent, bills, the threat of violence, and a possible relocation, it’s obvious that Ma and Pa truly love each other, and Balfe and Dornan sparkle on screen.

The score, the cinematography, the script, and Branagh’s masterful storytelling make this an exceptional film; one that will be treasured.

Belfast screens at TIFF via digitial this afternoon, and Thursday in person. Don’t miss it.

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