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Winner of the 2022 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay
Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar-winning paean to the city of his birth is a dramatic and euphoric portrait of Belfast in the late 1960s.
Branagh was still a young boy when he permanently left Belfast for the UK. But the memory of it – the city’s sights and sounds – has remained powerful. Here, he recounts life on a street that is torn apart by sectarianism yet remains a world of adventure for young Buddy (a stunning debut performance by Jude Hill). Opening with a colourful aerial tableau of modern-day Belfast, the film quickly moves to the past and lustrous black and white, as it recounts the initial divisions that crop up between Catholics and Protestants.
Buddy’s Pa (Jamie Dornan) is under pressure to join the fight, but is more concerned with his family’s welfare, spending an increasing amount of time earning a wage in England. Ma (Caitríona Balfe) is left to look after everyone, with help from Granny (Judi Dench) and Pop (Ciarán Hinds). As vital as these characters are to his drama, Branagh wisely keeps Buddy the main focus of his film, with the boy’s love of cinema an increasingly attractive escape from a fractious world. The cast are uniformly excellent, but it’s the details that Branagh invests in this world that makes Belfast such an involving drama.