Taking his personal childhood and crafting a beautifully told story about family, connections, and what is most important to us. Belfast is undoubtedly writer and director, Kenneth Branagh’s best film.

Belfast – Review

The film opens in modern-day Belfast before transitioning to 1969 where we meet Buddy (played by newcomer Jude Hill). Buddy lives with his mother (Caitriona Balfe), grandparents (Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench), and his older brother. His father (Jamie Dornan) is working off back taxes and is oftentimes away, with sparse returns to their home. Amongst all of this is an intense civil war that ravages the city. Branagh uses this family backdrop to craft beautiful emotional beats that can be undercut at any moment by the eruption of death and violence. It’s an unstable world that is beautifully shot and shown in a way where you feel that tension.


Despite there being a palpable tension, the moments of sincere connection shine through. The film uses this tension of the city to showcase the power of family and connection in a world where everyone needs someone at their back. Despite the violence, they support each other and work to build themselves a life worth fighting for. There are a few points in the film where you think a friendship or relationship is strained and about to break. However, the film does a great job of never dismissing these issues. Rather shows that the people of Belfast are willing to work with others rather than succumb to the easy route; ending that relationship or much worse. Branagh has said in interviews that even though the film is based on his own life it’s a universally powerful message that resonates even today.

The Cast Of Belfast

All of the actors in this film bring their best, and while all are potential Oscar contenders; Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, and Jude Hill give the best performances. Hill acts with confidence and pure skill, which is surprising for such a young actor. There are rumors of him being up for a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars and I can see it happening. If I were to nitpick with his film, it does feel like it takes a few scenes for Dornan to settle into the role, but once he does it’s magical.


The soundtrack for this film is fantastic as well. Showing off some classic rock tracks of the time to invigorate the scenes and give them a boost of energy. Fun references to shows like Star Trek or movies like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang also sell you on this era. There’s a moment later in the film, set to the song ‘Everlasting Love’ by Love Affair that’s so energetic and hypnotic that you can’t help but fall in love with the scene or its players.

Belfast is ultimately a feel-good film with terrific performances, beautiful cinematography, and an emotionally charged script. It’s not re-inventing cinema. It’s simply showing what you get when you frame a story in a beautiful and well-crafted way.