Movies: Belfast (2021)

Young Buddy and his family watch a movie whilst violence is all around them in the war-torn city of Belfast.

Kenneth Branagh’s new movie Belfast unfolds the violence of 1969 where a cheery young boy named Buddy is happy enough in his community. He plays like any other kid and the adults all seem to get on with each other ok. Then suddenly it all changes. There’s a volley of violence, the hurling of stones and everybody ducks for cover holding trash can lids to cover their heads.

Welcome to the troubles in Northern Ireland from the perspective of a nine year old. He knows that he lives on a mixed street with Protestants and Catholics but, for reasons he scarcely understands, he sees barricades being built to keep communities apart and British soldiers being brought in to keep the peace. Not that the movie is a deep analysis of the politics of the era. This is a boy’s story. So he steals a candy bar and then a packet of soap powder whilst a Catholic-owned store is being robbed, only to discover that nobody likes Turkish delight. The wider context of the “troubles” is never significantly discussed.

The film is shot largely in black and white, but colour crops up in unexpected places. A tour of modern Belfast is in colour as are the clips from movies seen by Buddy’s family in a cinema visit: One Million Years BC and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. What Branagh seems to be achieving is a recognition that Belfast did pull through the tribulations with its basic family structures intact. The movie is very successful at depicting what family life was like during that violent era. But if you want to know what the Good Friday agreement was all about, best to turn to Wikipedia.