Shot in pristine black and white, framed with a crisp formalism that presents compositions of neighbourhood banality like autobiographical postcards that, at times, recall the look of Roma (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2018).
Belfast in 1969, the August Riots spark the beginning of the violent Troubles and yet, despite being set during this turbulence, politics and socio-historical context are both lightly stepped over in Branagh’s vision, favouring a knowingly rose-tinted exploration of idealised recollection.
Day to day life continues despite the violence. We are introduced to the glow and heart of family and community: beautiful parents, warmly portrayed by Catriona Balfe (Super 8, Ford v Ferrari) Jamie Dornan (Marie Antoinette, Fifty Shades of Grey); irrepressibly endearing grandparents, played with natural charm, by Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds; and the two young boys, Will (Lewis McAskie) and Buddy (an impressive performance by young newcomer, Jude Hill).
Branagh’s Belfast is shot and scripted with wit, charm and deep affection. Young romance, dancing in the streets, violence in the streets, the struggle of a family in the turbulence of change and Van Morrison generously scattered over the montage of a life looked back on.
Already touted for Oscars, this is a film that lovingly opens itself to the tender enchantment of memory as a reverie that models itself on, and is best enjoyed in, the cinema.