Belfast Movie Review

In theory, childhood should be a time of innocence, fun, and protection from the grey areas that we experience as adults. But as much as our parents and grandparents would like to shield us from the wider world, it will still find its way in.

The new movie, Belfast, takes place in a working-class neighborhood in the Northern Ireland city of Belfast in 1969. Shot in black and white, the film opens on an ordinary afternoon. Children are playing while adults do their errands and go about their business. When a Protestant mob takes over the street and starts destroying the homes and property of Catholic residents, the life of a young man named Buddy (Jude Hill) is forever changed. His father (Jamie Dornan) works in England in construction and comes home on weekends. His mother (Caitriona Balfe) is doing the best she can to raise Buddy and his older brother Will (Lewis McAskie) on a limited income. When Buddy is not at home or at school, he is in the company of his grandfather (Ciaran Hinds) and his grandmother (Dame Judi Dench).

With the political and religious tension ratcheting up, the family has to make a choice. Do they stay and find a way to live as normally as possible? Or do they take a chance elsewhere?

Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, the praise is well deserved. Hill’s performance is equally innocent and charming. When we talk about war and prejudice, it is often seen through the eyes of one who is no longer a child. But when it is seen through the eyes of a young person, the perspective is completely different. There is still hope, even when it is tinged by fear or anxiety.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Belfast is presently in theaters.

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Misfire: Inside the Downfall of the NRA Book Review

From the outside, it appears that the NRA is one of the most powerful non-profit and lobbying intuitions in the United States. But, like any image, what we see may not always be the complete truth.

Misfire: Inside the Downfall of the NRA, by Tim Mak, was published earlier this month. Back in the day, the NRA was simply a grassroots organization whose goal was to encourage gun safety among its members. But over time, it morphed into a company that has had a stranglehold over the nation and any attempt by those in power to enact reasonable gun control laws. Led by Wayne LaPierre, the book reveals internal conflict, misuse of funds by those at the top, and the idea that they are above legal and legislative reproach.

The first break in the chain came right after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012. Instead of working with the powers that be, LaPierre and the NRA doubled down on their perspective on gun rights and gun control. This opened the door to the revelations about how low it would sink to retain power. Even if that meant working with Russian spies and manipulating those at the top of the political food chain.

It has been said that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. To say that this fall is spectacular is an understatement. If we are to balance the rights of gun owners while protecting the lives of Americans, the NRA must be dismantled. Mak’s book, I believe, makes this clear. If we don’t, we will continue to be a fractured nation that is continually grieving over loved ones lost to gun violence.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Passing Movie Review

When one is part of a minority group, there are two obvious choices. The first one is to be who you are, regardless of what is being said about you. The second is to pretend to be someone else and fit in, otherwise known as passing.

Passing is the title of the new Netflix film. Based on a book written by Nella Larsen, it is set in New York City in the 1920s. Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) were friends in high school. Both are biracial and have not seen each other for many years. Irene has embraced her identity as a woman of color while Clare is passing as Caucasian. Upon meeting Clare’s very white and very prejudiced husband John (Alexander Skarsgard), Irene is both curious and disgusted by her old pal’s life preference. For her part, Clare is drawn into Irene’s circle of mostly African-American friends (including Irene’s husband, Brian, played by Andre Holland). Unlike Clare, they have openly and proudly embraced their identities. She is forced to grapple with the self-applied mask of passing she has put on.

Written and directed by Rebecca Hall (who has been speaking to the press about her own biracial identity), this is a powerhouse of a film. Though both the book and the movie tell the story of two women who are both partially of African-American descent, I felt like understood them. I’ve often spoken on this blog about my own Jewish faith and identity. I could, if I wanted to, pass as someone of another faith or no faith at all. I’ve been asked quite a few times if I am of Irish ancestry due to my red hair.

At the end of the day, it is this decision we make that defines our lives. Do we not give a fuck and just be ourselves or do we submerge who we are to be accepted by others? It is a question that each of us must ask ourselves, knowing the outcome has to potential to have life-altering consequences.

Do I recommend it? absolutely.

Passing is available for streaming on Netflix.

P.S. I would not be surprised if Passing did well come award season.

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