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Review of "Belfast" by Kenneth Branagh

by Terri Bey


What do the Titanic and "Everlasting Love," a song written by Buzz Cason and Mac Gayden in 1967 and originally sung by Robert Knight and covered by artists such as Love Affair and Carl Carlton, have in common? Both are featured in the 2021 film, Belfast directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is known for acting in and directing such films as Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Love Labour's Lost (2000), Sleuth (2007), and others. Belfast follows the story of a young boy named "Buddy" and his family, as they live through the "Troubles," during the summer of 1969 through early 1970. The film is semi-autobiographical as Kenneth Branagh was born in Belfast. Branagh also wrote the screenplay and co-produced the film. To add to the Northern Ireland flavor of the film, music legend Van Johnson wrote the film score, as Morrison, like Branagh, was born in Belfast.


Overall, I thought the film was awesome. I thought that there was a little something for everyone. There was action, drama, some humor, sadness, and some sentimentality. For Titanic enthusiasts, there was something for us, as well. Actually, the film opens in full color and what do we see? We see the huge yellow gantry cranes of the Harland & Wolff Shipyards right off the bat. It is an overshot of the gantry crane with the "H&W." You can not miss it. The viewer then gets a look at present-day Belfast. The viewer sees old buildings, newer buildings, the Titanic Museum in Belfast, a closeup of the "Iceberg Princess Statue" that is in front of the Titanic Museum in Belfast, and a great flyover shot of the Thompson Dry Dock, where the Titanic, her sisters, and many other ships were docked for repairs and for being fitted in. It was awesome to see, and I nearly cried at these images and the film had barely started.


The film turns to black and white and the film shows us the main character, Buddy, a boy about 8 who lives on a street that is primarily Protestant, but there are a few Catholics, and there are street attacks called the Troubles and how he and his family go through family strife, his father's job being so far away, Buddy getting into trouble and the stress of possibly moving because of the father's job. I thought Jude Hill was very good as "Buddy." The viewer is shown how the family copes with "Pa"(Jamie Dornan) only coming home every once in a while because his job is in England. "Ma," (Caitríona Balfe) is sitting home worried about the children and worried about taxmen coming to visit, as the family is behind on their taxes. The viewer sees how the "Troubles" and the violence puts a strain on the family. There is a lot of love shown between the family members. Judi Dench is awesome as "Granny" and Ciarán Hinds is terrific as "Pop." The family show lots of love for one another, even during the Irish Wake, when "Everlasting Love," performed by Love Affair that "Pa" lip-syncs to "Ma." The theme of leaving is also very palpable, as you see the couple arguing over whether to accept the father's offer. You also see the mother's reluctance and even Buddy's throwing a fit about leaving. Ma was told by one of the other characters that Ireland is always about leaving.


Overall, this was a good film, which I heartily recommend. You even see the Harland and Wolff gantry cranes one last time, when the film returns to color at the end.


Trailer for Belfast (2021)




Everlasting Love (1967) Cover Version of the Robert Knight original performed by Love Affair in 1968:




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