Moments of struggle, conflict, and historical moments are often great for movies. Those moments, that may have gotten a mention on news here but were pivotal to a large number of people help open the eyes of the world to first-hand accounts. And when it comes to what happened in Belfast in 1969, it had limited news coverage on this side of the pond, compared to in the UK and what was shown in Northern Ireland.
The new story by Kenneth Branagh brings the story of Belfast to the screen, through the eyes of a young boy who lived in the center of it all. Focusing primarily on his experience, his family’s and the interactions they had throughout that summer through the next spring the movie focuses on what happened as well the ultimate results for this family. It takes a nice journey for viewers, allowing you to see their experiences and reaction to this moment in history.
Belfast is primarily shown in Black and White and gives the movie the feeling that it is a piece of the past being presented. And in reality, it is, reflecting back on what happened in that pivotal period of time for many people in Northern Ireland. But the movie makes great use of light and reflection when it’s highlighting moments of interest, the current day, or even moments of art and beauty they experience. In a completely black and white scene, the actors on stage performing A Christmas Carole are in color and are reflected in color in Judi Dench’s glasses showing the importance of that moment. Other times, the black and white film seems to not be as strong leading the color to sneak through in certain areas.
This playful use of color (and lack thereof) makes it so you feel like you’re experiencing and watching someone’s memories come to life. We often remember certain parts of our own lives and things that have expected differently, with items that made more of an impact easier to remember in more detail. It makes moments in the film seem more impactful as you watch it and even if in the overall arch of the story they may mean less. We have to remember we are seeing this moment in history through the eyes of a young boy, so the moments that impact him may be a lot different than what we would remember or would even note.
Overall, the movie is an interesting look at the conflicts that shook and changed the face of Belfast in the late ’60s. While it doesn’t seem that long ago in the long scheme of things, the conflicts were major in the city and changed how the city and country are today. The movie takes you along through love, laughter, loss, and pain that happened over a nine-month period of time. It is charming, and an interesting story but seems to lack a resolution and leaves audiences at a weird point in the story. While this type of story is important to tell and to expose more audiences to, it will have a limited appeal to theatergoers. It will, no doubt, win awards at competitions and is artistically done, but finding the right audience for this film may be harder than most think.
Belfast will be in theaters on November 12tth.
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Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Kenneth Branagh, BELFAST is a poignant story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood, amid the music and social tumult of the late 1960s.