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 Protestantmob 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.
When we talk about legendary men such as William Shakespeare, we speak of them as if they are icons, instead of human beings who have become icons over time.
In the new movie, All Is True, William Shakespeare (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed the film) is dealing with the twin troubles of the fire that destroyed the original Globe Theatre and mourning the loss of his son.
But returning home for a little r&r is not going to be so easy. Though Shakespeare receives a visit from his old friend, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (Ian McKellen), this is the easiest of the relationships with those around him. His wife, Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) feels put upon by the years of emotional and physical distance between them. His eldest daughter, Susanna (Kathryn Wilder) is going through a rough patch in her marriage. His younger daughter Judith (Lydia Wilson) rages against the injustices that women in her era experience on a day to day basis.
Branagh is an old hand at Shakespeare. His career has been built upon the life and the work of this film’s subject. What I liked about this film is that is presents Shakespeare as a human being, warts and all. His Shakespeare is not a young man at the height of his career, but an older man whose better days are behind him. He carries the weight of his world on his shoulders and the mistakes he has made along the way.
What I loved about this documentary is that these women not just pretending to be friends for the sake of the camera. This is not another role where they pretend to be someone else and have pretend relationships with their co-stars. They have a real emotional bond and years of friendship that easily comes across the screen. In addition to the interviews with the film’s subjects, the documentary also includes archival footage from their past work, images from their personal life and images of roles they have played in the past.
The only way to start my review is to say that Judi Dench is an international treasure an actress. Every performance is so nuanced and different, that the audience sometimes forgets that it is one performer playing all of these characters.
Philomena is the true story of woman’s journey to find the son she was forced to give up.
In the 1950’s, Philomena Lee (Sophie Kennedy Clark) has a son outside of wedlock. Her only home is a nunnery where she works in slave labor like conditions and is only allowed to see her son an hour a day. When her son is taken from her, Philomena is heartbroken, but never forgets her first child.
50 years later, her daughter Jane (Anna Maxwell-Martin) meets a disgraced journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) who takes up the story as a human interest piece. That leads them to Washington DC where they search for her son.
This movie is fantastic. Both Steve Coogan and Judi Dench give nuanced, understated performances. I love the yin and yang of Philomena’s faith in spite of her experiences and Martin’s lack of faith. The thing I loved most is that despite what the nuns did to her, Philomena still clings to her faith and forgives those who took her child from her.
This film and all involved deserves any and all awards send it’s way.