Should I Watch It? Belfast, the heartwarming new movie everyone is talking about.

Universal Pictures
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There are certain films bound to capture our attention.     

The ones that evoke a sense of nostalgia. That transport us a world away, while capturing a universal experience of growing up, belonging, and doing anything for our family. 

In Universal Pictures' latest award-winning film Belfast, lauded writer and director Kenneth Branagh captures this in droves.

Watch the Belfast Official Trailer 2 (Universal Pictures). Post continues below.

Written amidst 2020's COVID-19 lockdown, Branagh found himself reminiscing on his childhood experiences growing up in Northern Ireland and family's decision to leave Belfast. This inspired him to create his most personal film yet.

So, what exactly if this feel-good movie all about?

Let's unpack everything you need to know about Belfast and deliver our verdict on whether you should watch it: 

What is Belfast about?

Belfast is a semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age comedy-drama: both written and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Brought to us in monochrome and set in 1969, the film follows nine-year-old Buddy as his Protestant family navigate The Troubles; Northern Ireland's political turmoil of the late '60s through to the '90s.

Image: Universal Pictures.

Buddy's father (played by Jamie Dornan) is a carpenter working in England most of the week, with the hope of repaying his family's accumulating debt.


But his time away from his wife (played by Caitríona Balfe) and sons cause a rift in the family that, along with the increasing religious conflict, prompts them to consider moving away from their beloved hometown of Belfast.

When a group of Protestants riot on the family's street to intimidate the Catholics, townspeople set up a barricade to prevent their return and local criminal Billy Clanton demands Buddy's father join "the cause" as they implore all Protestants to do with "cash or commitment".

He refuses, and tensions between the two groups erupt from there. 

All the while, Buddy develops feelings for a fellow high-achieving classmate; Catherine, who is Catholic. This film has plenty of first love nostalgia, fast and funny street-life antics, dancing, music and joy to act as relief from the world of Belfast turning upside down around them.

Buddy’s grandparents, Pa’s parents (played by Dame Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds), are also indispensable in the film, and also to Buddy’s care and upbringing. Buddy visits every day from school and often unburdens himself to his grandparents about his girl problems or parents. Granny's sharp wisdom to counter Pop’s more romantic approach is the perfect 'realist and the ruler' dynamic to adds extra heart and familial warmth to the film.    

As the film's settings skip between the home, the streets, the grandparents', and Buddy's school, there's plenty of light and shade to keep you wanting more from this compelling, funny and poignant story.    

Image: Universal Pictures.


Come for...

The star-studded cast. Seriously! It features the likes of Dame Judi Dench (THE Dame Judi Dench), Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey), Caitríona Balfe (Outlander), Ciarán Hinds (Dumbledore's brother in Harry Potter), and newcomer Jude Hill who plays Buddy. 

A fun side note: it's the 11-year-old's feature film debut, and Hill was nine when he was cast as the film's lead out of 300 young actors who auditioned. Woah.

If the incredible cast isn't the drawcard to entice you in, the film has already received award-winning acclaim having won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival, and nominated for 11 Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture.

Image: Universal Pictures.

Stay for...

The coming-of-age storyline that will make you feel deeply nostalgic for your own hometown.

...and the witty jokes you'll enjoy throughout the film.

What will Belfast remind you of?

Paper Moon for its period drama and black-and-white storytelling, and Love Actually for Sam and Joanna's young love storyline that we're still not over.

How long is it?

A compelling 1 hour and 37 minutes. Ideal for everyone in the family, really! And the perfect length to immerse yourself in this emotive film to get you feeling all the feelings. 

Image: Universal Pictures.


So, should you watch it?

In short: a hundred times, yes! 

Belfast is such a personal, joyful story about the power of memory. From Buddy's lens, it brings into focus plenty of important questions: can his father be the hero he needs him to be? Will his mother sacrifice her past in order to protect her family’s future? How can his beloved grandparents be kept safe? And how can he love the girl of his dreams?

Paired with its historical intensity, this movie is will definitely resonate universally with its themes of childhood memories and hometown nostalgia. 

As a viewer immersing myself in the black and white film, I can appreciate how powerful the cinematography is in driving the narrative. It then delights us with bursts of colour sprinkled throughout the film, which reminds us of young Buddy's bright eyes and creativity. 

The film's alluring soundtrack, which heroes Belfast musician Van Morrison, is filled with a unique combination of folk, soul, country, jazz and rock. It's bound to continue dominating this coming awards season, along with its current nominations for its cast, directing, screenplay, cinematography and best picture.

As the film comes to a close, the credits give a dedication, "For the ones who stayed. For the ones who left. And for all the ones who were lost." Chills.

It's a family must-see for a glimpse at the history alone, with the inevitable emotional journey you'll embark on aside.

So, I'm basically telling everyone: run, don't walk to get your tickets. Belfast is coming to cinemas on February 3.

From lauded director Kenneth Branagh, Belfast revisits the summer a decades-long political conflict changed the director’s life forever. Watch both Belfast trailers and book your tickets now.

Feature Image: Universal Pictures/Rob Youngson/FocusFeatures.

Universal Pictures
Belfast, only in cinemas from February 3