Belfast became available on Vudu this weekend and I was very excited about seeing it. When it came out in theaters recently, I had not been able to see it, though I had heard a lot of positives about it. Writer and director Kenneth Branagh created a film that was awarded the TIFF People’s Choice Award.

It is well deserved. Belfast was a heart-warming, beautiful film of family and the life that comes while living in Belfast, Ireland in the late sixties. This film is considered to be semiautobiographical, taking much of the life of Branagh as a child living in this world and you can absolutely see the experiences he brings to the screen.

Buddy (Jude Hill) is the young boy whose perspective we see in the movie. He is living through the turmoil facing children during this time period, everything from trying to suss his was around his first crush to the dangers of violence exploding in the streets. All the while showing such love for the people in his life, including his parents and grandparents.

Buddy’s parents are played by Jamie Dornan (of the 50 Shades of Gray movies) and Caitriona Balfe and they are sensational. Balfe stands out as a fierce mother who has been tasked with raising Buddy and his brother (Lewis McAskie) very much alone as Dornan had other responsibilities. Jamie Dornan, who had a terrible rep after the 50 Shades films, is also fantastic. His chemistry with Balfe is definitely apparent, and there is a scene in the third act that will show it to you in spades.

The grandparents are played by Dame Judi Dench and the wonderful Ciarán Hinds. I’m so glad that Judi Dench, who I love as an actor, has finally came back to the type of role that is worth her time (not roles in Cats or Artemis Fowl). Dench and Hinds are masterful together and bring a good humor and realism to the film.

Jude Hill does a brilliant job as the main kid in Belfast. He seems to be a natural and that aura comes across to the audience. We feel everything that he does and understand completely all of the struggles and worries that he has, from trying to be noticed by the pretty girl he is crushing on to his desperate feelings about leaving Belfast behind. He has a special connection with his grandparents and it pops in the movie. He brings such a depth to this little boy that is very impressive, especially considering the resumes of the other actors he is acting with.

The film has a more serious JoJo Rabbit vibe to it. It is not as laugh out loud funny as the Taika Waititi film, but it has the same kind of heart.

Belfast is beautifully shot and the direction is great. The film is shot in black and white, with a few moments of color coming through. The visuals were executed in a excellent manner and helped provide the tone of the film.

The music too was exceptional. The music was done by Van Morrison and the songs seemed unlikely to work in the places they put them, but every one was lovely.

I loved this movie. I am so glad that I was able to see it and that I did not miss it.

5 stars

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