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.