The movie Belfast is a powerful family movie brimming with joy and hope in the middle of the most difficult and tenuous of situations. This indie film received seven nominations at the 94th Academy Awards, including Best Picture. This is a staggering achievement for an indie film.
I honestly thought it could win Best Picture. The bookies had it as the early favourite, but in the end it was pipped at the post for number two. Thankfully, Belfast at least received an award for Best Original Screenplay. It was named one of the best films of 2021 by the National Board of Review.
Well firstly, it features the story of a family in a turbulent period of history through a child’s eyes. Children by nature are hopeful and inquisitive. It is something we forget as adults, but we do well to remember.
“Even if no one told you Belfast is a personal story for filmmaker Kenneth Branagh, it would become patently obvious pretty fast.
There’s an air about it, an authenticity and poignancy that feels viscerally personal, as if it was plucked from the long-ago memories of someone with genuine affection and love for a certain time in their lives.
That someone is Branagh, and Belfast is the semi-autobiographical story of his childhood growing up in a city torn apart by sectarian violence as families struggle to make sense of their home and where they belong.
But even with that fractious backdrop of 1969, Belfast is a story with grace and humanity – and above all, it’s about family.
Branagh’s onscreen stand-in is Buddy (newcomer Jude Hill), a sweet and playful nine-year-old whose world turns when his street is besieged by a group of Protestant rioters targeting the Catholic side of the street.
Tanks and barricades litter the street as standover men pressure Buddy’s father Pa (Jamie Dornan) to join the cause. Pa has been working in England and the ongoing violence at home plus the family’s never-ending debt leads to him to think about migrating to Australia or Canada.
But Ma (Caitriona Balfe) isn’t into the idea, anchored by the overwhelming feeling that no matter what’s happening, Belfast is home.
Those ideas of home and family are so intricately linked in Belfast and it’s what fuels this captivating and emotionally resonant film that would speak to anyone who’s ever had to grapple with belonging.
Belfast is brimming with heart, tinted with this great love Branagh clearly has for his hometown and his early years. Maybe that means there’s a rose-coloured glasses effect over Belfast, but the film never declared itself as some warts-and-all exposé about the (political/religious) Troubles.
Those films already exist. Belfast is about how people can still experience beauty and love in the face of the chaos around them.”
This is what Don Shanahan, a respected Rotten Tomatoes film critic, had to say about the film:
“The movie warms you with mirth and destroys you with punch, just as a proper Irish creation should.”
“Belfast” is unquestionably Kenneth Branagh’s most personal film to date, but it’s also sure to have universal resonance. It depicts a violent, tumultuous time in Northern Ireland, but it does so through the innocent, exuberant eyes of a nine-year-old boy. And it’s shot in gentle black-and-white, with sporadic bursts of glorious colour.”
“Visually stunning, emotionally wrenching and gloriously human, “Belfast” takes one short period from Branagh’s life and finds in it a coming-of-age story… Plus it’s funny as hell – because if anybody knows how to laugh in the face of tragedy, it’s the Irish.”
So you can see, I am not alone in my enthusiastic recommendation of this film. As to the suitability of this film for children, you be the judge. It has an M Rating for Mature Themes & Coarse Language, but I have seen worse M films. If I was rating the film, I would give Belfast a PG rating, or in other words, Parental Guidance. It’s your call.
The reason I am so passionate about Belfast is that it is a celebration of family, motherhood and fatherhood. It is also a profound celebration of childhood. Belfast has an underlying redemptive theme — a moral tale, if you like. Yes, it has some gritty moments, but so does life.
Warwick Marsh has been married to Alison Marsh since 1975; they have five children and nine grandchildren, and he and his wife live in Wollongong in NSW, Australia. He is a family and faith advocate, social reformer, musician, TV producer, writer and public speaker.
Warwick is a leader in the Men’s and Family Movement, and he is well-known in Australia for his advocacy for children, marriage, manhood, family, fatherhood and faith. Warwick is passionate to encourage men to be great fathers and to know the greatest Father of all. The Father in Whom “there is no shadow of turning.”
The Fatherhood Foundation Incorporated trading as Dads4Kids is a Harm Prevention Charity listed under Subdivision 30_EA of the Australian Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 with Tax Deductible Status (DGR) for donations
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