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Patricia Puentes

The 27 Most Anticipated Movies of 2022

review on movie belfast

We can’t believe it’s already almost April either. But there’s still a lot of 2022 ahead of us and we thought about taking a renewed look at our selection of some of 2022’s most anticipated films, especially considering the calendar of releases has changed a lot in the last few weeks. 

Bear in mind that nothing is set in stone, so this isn’t a comprehensive selection. New titles will pop up as the new year unfolds. Plus, most of these titles are tentpole movies and/or sequels or adaptations from pre-existing franchises. Expect the year 2022 to be full of those, but also keep in mind that there’ll also be a fair share of must-see indie movies as the year progresses. It’s hard to know if 2022 will be the year that cinema-going returns to normal, or if we’ll all still be doing a lot of streaming at home for certain titles, while opting for the big screen for others. 

And yes, some of the titles on this list are movies that we were already looking forward to watching back in 2019 — ahem, Top Gun: Maverick .

Winter 2022: Movies That Have Already Premiered

review on movie belfast

The 355 (January 7): This action-espionage ensemble stars Jessica Chastain as a CIA agent who joins forces with a German agent (Diane Kruger), a former MI6 ally who specializes in computers (Lupita Nyong’o) and a Colombian psychologist (Penélope Cruz) on a mission to recover a top-secret weapon. Bingbing Fan plays the mysterious woman who follows their every move. The 355 is now available on Peacock and on video on demand (VOD).

Scream (January 14): This is the fifth installment of the Scream franchise. Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox and David Arquette return to their iconic roles alongside newcomers Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding and Jenna Ortega. Twenty-five years after the brutal murders that terrified the small town of Woodsboro, a new killer dons the Ghostface mask and targets a group of teenagers. Scream is now available on Paramount+ and VOD.

Moonfall (February 4): Master of disaster and climate change advocate Roland Emmerich co-writes and directs this film that sees the Moon on the brink of colliding with Earth and annihilating our world. Halle Berry plays a former astronaut who partners with another astronaut (Patrick Wilson) and a conspiracy theorist (John Bradley from Game of Thrones ). Together they’ll try to save humanity as they discover our Moon is not what we think it is.

Death on the Nile (February 11): This new adaptation of a classic Agatha Christie novel has Kenneth Branagh directing and playing the lead detective, Hercule Poirot — the Irish filmmaker already starred in and directed Murder on the Orient Express (2017). This one has been postponed several times due not only to the pandemic but also because a prominent role in the movie is played by Armie Hammer. The movie debuts on Hulu and HBO Max on March 29. 

Uncharted (February 18): Based on the eponymous action-adventure video game series , the movie stars Tom Holland ( Spider-Man: Homecoming ) as Nathan Drake and Mark Wahlberg as Victor Sullivan. They both embark on an epic international adventure — Barcelona is prominently featured in the trailer — in the pursuit of “the greatest treasure never found.” Meanwhile, Nathan starts discovering new details about his long-lost brother.

The Batman (March 4): Robert Pattinson dons the cape and the pointy-eared mask in this new reboot of the bat franchise. Matt Reeves ( Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ) co-writes and directs the movie, which also stars Zoë Kravitz, Paul Dano, Peter Sarsgaard, Andy Serkis, Jeffrey Wright and John Turturro. Don’t miss our article on the hidden details in The Batman ’s first trailer and the movie’s inception and our full review of The Batman . 

Turning Red (March 11): Pixar’s first 2022 title is directed by Domee Shi, who won an Oscar for her short film Bao (2018). The movie follows the story of 13-year-old Mei Lee (voiced by Rosalie Chiang), who turns into a giant red panda every time she gets excited. Sandra Oh voices Mei Lee’s overbearing mom, Ming. Read our review of Turning Red here . 

Deep Water (March 18): Based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith and starring Ana de Armas and Ben Affleck, this is one of the titles that has been postponed several times because of COVID-19. De Armas and Affleck play a married couple who have an arrangement to keep their marriage afloat. But when their games turn into murder, things get messier. Highsmith’s source material offers a portrayal of the fake veneer covering American suburbia — let’s hope the film does too.

The Lost City (March 25): Sandra Bullock returns to her comedy roots starring in this action-adventure where she plays Loretta Sage. She’s a popular romance-adventure writer on a promotional tour with Alan (Channing Tatum), the model who has always portrayed Loretta’s main character: the hero Dash. When Loretta is kidnapped by a billionaire (Daniel Radcliffe) who wants to find an ancient lost city’s treasure from one of her novels, Alan decides to take the lead and rescue her as Dash would do. They end up in the middle of the jungle needing to work together to stay alive and find the ancient treasure before it’s lost forever.

Spring Movies 2022

review on movie belfast

Morbius (April 1): Set in the same universe as Venom , Morbius stars the chameleonic Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius. He suffers from a rare blood disease and, while trying to find a cure for himself and others, he ends up transformed into someone with an urge for blood and other vampiric tendencies. Watching the method actor Leto transform himself into a mindless creature may prove to be one of the most appealing aspects of the film.

Ambulance (April 8): Michael Bay produces and directs this film starring Yahya Abdul-Mateen II ( Candyman ) as Will, a vet desperate to pay for his wife’s medical bills. His adoptive brother, Dany (Jake Gyllenhaal), is a professional criminal. When Will asks him for help, Dany enlists Will in a $32 million bank robbery. The two of them end up in an adrenaline-fueled chase through the streets of Los Angeles, inside of an ambulance driven by EMT Cam (Eiza González).

Downton Abbey: A New Era (May 20): First there were the six seasons of the television drama about a family of British aristocrats, their estate and the servants who allowed for everything to run smoothly. Then there was a 2019 movie too, and now it’s time for a film sequel: A New Era . Julian Fellowes, the creator of the show, returns once more here as the writer. And yes, the good news is that despite the dire health diagnosis the Dowager Countess revealed to her granddaughter Mary (Michelle Dockery) at the end of the previous movie, Maggie Smith returns to A New Era to hopefully dispense fresh doses of perfectly delivered puns. 

Top Gun: Maverick (May 27): The original Top Gun opened in 1986. Now, this sequel that’s been decades in the making follows Tom Cruise’s Maverick after he’s served more than 30 years as a pilot in the Navy. When he has to train a group of Top Gun graduates for an impossible mission, Maverick meets Lt. Bradley Bradshaw (Miles Teller), the son of his long-lost friend Goose. Expect spectacular aerial sequences and a lot of need for speed.

Jurassic World: Dominion (June 10): Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return for this sixth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise and sequel to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). Franchise originals Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern also star in this movie. Lightyear (June 17): Who was the Space Ranger who inspired the Buzz Lightyear toy from the Toy Story franchise? Chris Evans voices Buzz in this origin story that Pixar describes as a sci-fi action-adventure film.

review on movie belfast

Elvis (June 24): Musical heavy-weight Baz Luhrmann ( Moulin Rouge ) directs and co-writes this biopic starring Austin Butler ( The Carrie Diaries ) as music legend Elvis Presley. The film also stars Tom Hanks as Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker. “The story delves into the complex dynamic between Presley and Parker spanning over 20 years, from Presley’s rise to fame to his unprecedented stardom, against the backdrop of the evolving cultural landscape and loss of innocence in America,” reads Warner Bros.’ official synopsis of the film.

Summer Movies 2022

review on movie belfast

Minions: The Rise of Gru (July 1): Allow me the yellow indulgence since I’ve been a fan of these adorable polyglot creatures since I first saw Despicable Me in a movie theater back in 2010. This second prequel of the Minions origin story — and fifth installment of the Despicable Me franchise — is set in the 1970s and follows a 12-year-old Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and his faithful army of yellow sidekick followers. 

Thor: Love and Thunder (July 8): This fourth Thor movie — the second one helmed by the New Zealander Taika Waititi — sees Natalie Portman returning as astrophysicist and Thor’s ex, Jane Foster. Waititi, who’s also taken writing duties for this film, has teased at its romantic components . The movie will also feature Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Christian Bale.

Nope (July 22): After Get Out and Us , here comes the next psychological horror film written and directed by Academy Award-winner Jordan Peele. Details are still very much under wraps for this movie, which stars Academy Award-winner Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Oscar nominee Steven Yeun . You can read more about Nope and its enigmatic first trailer here . 

Fall Movies 2022

review on movie belfast

Don’t Worry Darling (September 23): Olivia Wilde’s second feature film after she directed the outstanding Booksmart (2019) stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles as a married couple living in a utopian experimental community in the 1950s. Pugh plays a housewife and someone who fears that the company her husband works for may be hiding something. The movie also stars Wilde alongside Chris Pine, Gemma Chan and Kiki Layne.

Spider-Man: Across Spider-Verse (Part One) (October 7): After the multiverse-set Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film and was lauded for its diverse representation — the movie stars Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore) as an Afro-Latino kid who also happens to be Spider-Man — we really are looking forward to this Spider-Verse sequel. Not to mention, it’s one of several animated films we’re most excited about seeing this year. 

Black Adam (October 21): This eleventh installment in the DC Extended Universe is directed by the Catalan filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra and stars Dwayne Johnson as the titular villain. Pierce Brosnan and Aldis Hodge also appear in this Johnson-starring vehicle that could see him become Shazam’s archenemy. 

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11): Ryan Coogler returns as co-writer and director of the much-anticipated sequel to his Black Panther (2018), the first superhero film to be nominated for a coveted Best Picture nod at the Oscars. Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Florence Kasumba and Angela Bassett reprise their roles from the original movie. The multi-talented Michaela Coel ( I May Destroy You ) will play a new role in this sequel. To honor the memory of the late Chadwick Boseman, who played Black Panther in the original film, Marvel has announced that this movie won’t recast the titular role . Also, Thor: Love and Thunder and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever aren’t the only two Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to be released in 2022. There’ll also be Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (May 6).

She Said (November 18): Maria Schrader ( Unorthodox ) directs this adaptation of Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor’s book in which they relate their New York Times investigation into Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and abuse behavior. The exposé helped further the #MeToo movement. The film stars Zoe Kazan, Carey Mulligan, Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher.

Avatar 2 (December 16): Thirteen years after James Cameron introduced us to Pandora in Avatar , here comes the second installment of this story. Zoe Saldaña, Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver all return to Avatar 2 , alongside newcomers Kate Winslet, Vin Diesel and Michelle Yeoh. The franchise is expected to have five installments in total, with each new movie being released two years apart.

I Wanna Dance with Somebody (December 21): Naomi Ackie ( Small Axe ) plays the late singer Whitney Houston in this musical biopic that’s directed by Kasie Lemons ( Harriet ) and also stars Clarke Peters, Stanley Tucci and Nafessa Williams.


review on movie belfast


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2021, Drama, 1h 37m

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Critics consensus.

A deeply personal project for writer-director Kenneth Branagh, Belfast transcends its narrative deficits with powerful performances and directorial craft. Read critic reviews

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Belfast is uplifting in spite of the story's tragic details -- although you might need to listen closely in order to understand some of the dialogue. Read audience reviews

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“Belfast” is unquestionably Kenneth Branagh ’s most personal film to date, but it’s also sure to have universal resonance. It depicts a violent, tumultuous time in Northern Ireland, but it does so through the innocent, exuberant eyes of a nine-year-old boy. And it’s shot in gentle black-and-white, with sporadic bursts of glorious color.

In recalling his youthful days in an insular neighborhood in the titular city, Branagh has made a film that’s both intimate and ambitious—his “ Roma ,” if you’ll forgive the inevitable comparison to Alfonso Cuarón ’s recent masterpiece. That’s quite a balancing act the writer/director attempts to pull off, and for the most part, he succeeds. It’s hard not to be charmed by this love letter to a pivotal place and time in his childhood, and to the people who helped shape him into the singular cultural force he’d become. Long before the dedication that plays in front of the closing credits—“For the ones who stayed. For the ones who left. And for all the ones who were lost.”—we can feel Branagh’s wistful heart on his sleeve.

And yet, because we’re witnessing the events of the summer of 1969 from the perspective of a sweet child named Buddy—Branagh’s stand-in, played by the irrepressibly winsome Jude Hill —there can be an oversimplification of the upheaval at work, as well as an emotional distancing in the way the film is shot. We see and hear things the way Buddy does: in snippets and whispers, through open windows and cracked doors, down narrow hallways and across the cramped living room, where “ Star Trek ” always seems to be on the TV. ( Haris Zambarloukos , who has shot several of Branagh’s films including “Cinderella” and “Murder on the Orient Express,” provides the evocative, black-and-white cinematography.) When a Protestant mob charges down his block as he’s playing make-believe in the middle of the street, trying to root out the neighboring Catholic families, the trash can lid he’d been using as a toy shield suddenly becomes a vital piece of protection against flying rocks.

This is the constant push-pull that serves as a through-line in “Belfast.” It’s a film that frequently feels at odds with itself, resulting in equal amounts of poignancy and frustration. Ultimately, though, the sincerity on display wins you over. You’d have to be made of stone otherwise, especially in the simple, quiet moments when Buddy learns valuable life lessons to the strains of Van Morrison . (Yes, the words feel cheesy as I’m typing them, but gosh darn it, that kid is adorable.) It’s a lovely touch that the girl Buddy has a crush on—a pig-tailed blonde who happens to be Catholic—also happens to be the smartest student in class, and the way he woos her inspires fond laughter.

Given Branagh’s longtime stature as an actor, it’s no surprise that he’s drawn warm, authentic performances from his top-tier, perfectly chosen cast. Within this modest, working-class, Protestant setting, Buddy views his parents as movie-star glamorous—larger-than-life as the actors in the pictures he yearns to see each weekend at the local movie house. Known to him (and to us) only as Ma and Pa, his mother ( Caitriona Balfe ) is elegant and feisty, while his father ( Jamie Dornan ) is charismatic and kindhearted. Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds have an effortless chemistry as his grandparents, teasing each other mercilessly from a place of deep love and affection and a lifetime of commitment—to each other, to this place. The scene in which they transition breezily from giving each other a hard time to dancing in the living room, Pop serenading Granny in her ear as he holds her close, is perhaps the film’s highlight.

It’s a brief respite from the growing danger that’s surrounding them, disrupting the feeling of camaraderie that’s connected families on this block for decades, regardless of their religious or political beliefs. Buddy struggles to understand The Troubles, as they’d come to be known, and entreats the grown-ups he trusts to enlighten him. These exchanges may seem cutesy but they hammer home the senselessness of the violence that tore this region apart for so long. They also affirm once again what astonishingly subtle actors Dench and Hinds are; the way they find nuance and heartache in simple platitudes is a marvel to behold. (And speaking of Marvel, Branagh inserts a brief but clever reference to his own role as a filmmaker shepherding along the MCU.)

Within the steady hum of the threat Buddy and his family face is an impossible decision: Do they stay in this neighborhood where they’ve lived their whole lives, where everyone knows everyone, or do they move somewhere safer and start over? Pa’s work has been taking him to England for weeks at a time as he tries to pay off his debts—maybe the whole family should just join him there? Or perhaps a city that’s idyllic but far away, like Vancouver or Sydney? The achingly romantic final shot signals their choice in a way that hits harder than any of the nostalgia that came before it.

"Belfast" will be playing in theaters starting November 12th.

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire

Christy Lemire is a longtime film critic who has written for RogerEbert.com since 2013. Before that, she was the film critic for The Associated Press for nearly 15 years and co-hosted the public television series "Ebert Presents At the Movies" opposite Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, with Roger Ebert serving as managing editor. Read her answers to our Movie Love Questionnaire here .

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Belfast movie poster

Belfast (2021)

Rated PG-13 for some violence and strong language.

Caitriona Balfe as Ma

Judi Dench as Granny

Jude Hill as Buddy

Jamie Dornan as Pa

Ciarán Hinds as Pop

Lara McDonnell as Moira

Gerard Horan as Uncle Jack


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‘Belfast’ Review: A Boy’s Life

In this charming memoir, Kenneth Branagh recalls his childhood in Northern Ireland through a rose-tinted lens.

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Front row from left, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Jude Hill and Lewis McAskie in “Belfast.”

By Jeannette Catsoulis

Romanticism reigns in “Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic memoir of his childhood in a turbulent Northern Ireland. From the lustrous, mainly black-and-white photography to the cozy camaraderie of its working-class setting, the movie softens edges and hearts alike. The family at its center might have health issues, money worries and an outdoor toilet, but this is no Ken Loach-style deprivation: In these streets, grit and glamour stroll hand-in-hand.

So when Ma (Caitriona Balfe) sits in her doorway to peel potatoes for dinner, what we notice is the soft afternoon light dancing on her luminous skin and brunette curls. And when Pa (Jamie Dornan), square of jaw and shoulder, strides toward home after a spell working in England, the camera shoots him like a returning hero. Which, of course, he is, at least to his younger son, Buddy (a wonderful Jude Hill), a smart, cheery 9-year-old and a fictional version of Branagh himself.

Viewed largely through Buddy’s eyes, “Belfast,” which opens in August, 1969 (after a brief, colorful montage of the present-day city), is about the destruction of an idyll. Mere minutes into the film, a hail of Molotov cocktails ignites the friendly neighborhood where Catholics and Protestants live amicably side-by-side. A swirling camera conveys Buddy’s confusion and terror; yet, even as the barricades go up and the local bully-boy (Colin Morgan) tries to draw Buddy’s Protestant family into his campaign to “cleanse the community” of its Catholic residents, the movie refuses to get bogged down in militancy.

Instead, we watch Buddy play ball with his cousins; moon over a pretty classmate; watch “Star Trek” and Westerns on television; and spend time with his loving grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds). Drawing from his own experiences, Branagh crafts nostalgic, sentimental scenes suffused with some of Van Morrison’s warmest songs . Family visits to movies like “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968) add wonder and fantasy to Buddy’s life and a clue to his future career. They also offer an escape from a conflict he doesn’t understand and his director refuses to elucidate. Snippets of television news play in the background, but the growing Troubles that would tear the country apart are not the story that Branagh (whose family moved to England when he was nine) wants to tell.

So while “Belfast” is, in one sense, a deeply personal coming-of-age tale, it’s also a more universal story of displacement and detachment, located most powerfully in Balfe’s fierce, shining performance. Her authenticity steadies the heartbeat of a film whose cuteness can sometimes grate, and whose telescoped view offers little sense of life beyond Buddy’s block. Branagh’s remembrances may be idealized, but with “Belfast” he has written a charming, rose-tinted thank-you note to the city that sparked his dreams and the parents whose sacrifices helped them come true.

Belfast Rated PG-13 for loud bangs and angry bullies. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. In theaters.

Child’s eye view: Jude Hill, right, as Buddy with Jamie Dornan as Pa in Belfast.

Belfast review – Branagh’s chocolate box vision of his childhood

Kenneth Branagh’s monochrome film of growing up in 60s Northern Ireland offers nostalgia but avoids getting to grips with the Troubles

K enneth Branagh’s unabashedly feelgood memoir of growing up in Belfast as the Troubles erupted in the late 1960s suffers from a problem of perspective. Canted camera angles are rendered in flat, too-clean black and white; the film leans hard into its deliberately skewed child’s point of view. Nine-year-old Buddy (newcomer Jude Hill) hops, skips and jumps through rows of chocolate-box terrace houses to a bouncy soundtrack of Van Morrison. His family, which includes Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds’s cutesy Granny and Pop, find solace at the movies.

Buddy’s family are Protestants; their Catholic neighbours will soon be driven out of their homes by sectarian hostility. Jamie Dornan’s Pa is a labourer working in England who returns home to a growing pile of unpaid bills and violence brewing on the streets. The impressionable Buddy is encouraged by a schoolfriend to loot a supermarket; implausibly, Ma (Caitríona Balfe) marches him back into the thick of the violence to return a box of stolen washing powder.

The patina of nostalgia is used to avoid contextualising the Troubles, something the family feels separate from. A 30-year conflict that started with civil rights protests is boiled down to a vague problem of “bloody religion”. After all, Buddy’s crush is a Catholic. “She could be a vegetarian antichrist for all I care,” Pa reassures him.

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Belfast (2021)

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Belfast Review


It starts in colour with a touristy view of the city — the Harland & Wolff docks, the Titanic hotel — until a crane shot moving over a wall reveals a street in 1969, now in striking black-and-white. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’ camera flies and glides around the busy street, which turns into a riot as Protestant gangs torch Catholic homes. Caught in the melee is nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), the youngest member of a Protestant family 
that includes Buddy’s older brother Will (an under-served Lewis McAskie), Pa ( Jamie Dornan ), who works over the water as a joiner to pay off tax debts so is rarely home, Ma ( Outlander ’s Caitriona Balfe ), doggedly keeping the family on the straight and narrow, plus Pop ( Ciarán Hinds ) and Granny ( Judi Dench ).

Balfe is the star here — the chemistry she shares with Dornan is tangible.

The Troubles serves as an undercurrent rather than a leading player, making Belfast much more of a memory movie than a political diatribe. Most of the film is concerned with Buddy’s misunderstandings (about politics and religion) and misadventures (falls for the local Catholic swot, mucks up stealing a Turkish Delight), Hill making a natural, engaging Branagh surrogate. Dornan is a mostly genial dad figure, while Hinds and Dench drop moments of gravitas, but Balfe is the star here and gives the film’s stand-out speech about the dangers of leaving home — the chemistry she shares with Dornan is tangible.

Branagh’s filmmaking frequently goes for broke. Sometimes it misses — using High Noon ’s ‘Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’’ to turn a street showdown into a Western face-off cheapens the moment — but mostly it’s grandiloquent and luminous. He’s also mounted an affectionate tribute to late-’60s childhood ephemera (footballer Danny Blanchflower, Thunderbirds suits, Corgi Aston Martin DB5s) and visits to the movies splashed with colour, life through different eyes; though a trip to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang feels a little over-the-top — the family reacting to flying sequences like they are on a rollercoaster. Branagh’s movie-movie tendencies emerge again when Pa launches into an exuberant rendition of ‘Everlasting Love’, sung to his wife. Still, Belfast is the kind of film where you occasionally print the legend, not the truth. And given the context in which Branagh grew up, you can absolutely see why.

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Kenneth branagh's autobiographical 'belfast' never quite finds its point of view.

Justin Chang

review on movie belfast

The family (Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Jude Hill and Lewis McAskie) goes to the movies in Belfast . Rob Youngson /Focus Features hide caption

The family (Caitríona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Jude Hill and Lewis McAskie) goes to the movies in Belfast .

It was Federico Fellini who once said that "All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography." He knew of what he spoke, given his fondness for self-portraiture in films like 8 1/2 and especially Amarcord , his 1973 classic about his own childhood. Cinema history is full of such great memory pieces, like François Truffaut's The 400 Blows, John Boorman's Hope and Glory and Terence Davies' The Long Day Closes , all made by directors looking back with aching tenderness at their early years.

Kenneth Branagh's Belfast has already courted such comparisons since its warm reception at festivals earlier this fall. You can see why: This is a rare dive into personal territory from a filmmaker known for directing and often starring in adaptations of Shakespeare and Agatha Christie . And Branagh's working-class childhood was certainly more dramatic than most: He was just a young boy when the Troubles began in Northern Ireland and his home city of Belfast was plunged into sectarian violence.

Jude Hill is Branagh's younger stand-in, Buddy, who's playing outside when fighting breaks out in the street and Molotov cocktails start flying. Branagh stages this sequence with explosive intensity, but for most of Belfast , the Troubles hover in the background, a source of anxiety as well as confusion.

Buddy doesn't understand why he and his Protestant family are suddenly supposed to hate their Catholic neighbors, and his decent, tolerant-minded parents don't get it, either. Caitríona Balfe plays his mother, who's done most of the work raising Buddy and his older brother. Jamie Dornan is Buddy's frequently absent father, who works in England as a skilled laborer.

During one of his father's trips back home, Buddy eavesdrops as his parents argue about their finances and future. His pa wants them all to leave Belfast and its Troubles behind, but his ma can't imagine living anywhere else. (It doesn't spoil anything to note that Branagh and his family did end up moving to England.)

Belfast is a fond farewell to Branagh's childhood. He wants to capture something of the city's scrappy, resilient spirit, mainly by cramming the soundtrack with classic songs plus one original tune by the Belfast legend Van Morrison . There's a nice balance of sweet and tart in Buddy's relationships with his ailing grandfather and sharp-tongued grandmother, nicely played by Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench. There's also a cute subplot involving Buddy's crush on a classmate and his efforts to improve his grades and get her attention.

Although Branagh shot the movie in black and white, he sometimes lets a little color burst into the frame — like when Buddy and his family go to the pictures and watch late '60s hits like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang . In showing us these brightly colored images, Branagh foreshadows his own career as a filmmaker and pays tribute to the magic of the movies. These are lovely moments, but they also made me wish that Belfast itself were a more moving, transporting experience. I'm still trying to figure out why a story that's clearly so personal to its maker somehow wound up feeling so muted in the telling.

It may have something to do with the pandemic, which made it difficult for the crew to shoot in the real Belfast, forcing them to build a 1960s street set on an airport runway. You can feel the lack of grit and texture in the production design, and also in the overly polished sheen of the images. But the problems with Belfast aren't just technical. There's an emotional restraint to this movie that should be admirable in theory: Branagh at least doesn't try to jerk sentimental tears. If anything, he's too guarded, as if he were reluctant to probe the past too deeply.

There's also something a little studied about the way Branagh relies on older movies to tell his family's story. At one point, he uses images from the classic western High Noon to underscore the struggle of Buddy's father when a menacing Protestant gang leader tries to recruit him for battle. It's a clever but secondhand reference in a movie that never quite finds its own point of view. All art may be autobiographical, but Belfast is a reminder that not all autobiography is necessarily art.

review on movie belfast

‘Belfast’: Kenneth Branagh’s Troubles-in-Mind Memoir-Drama Is a Personal Triumph

By David Fear

It’s 1969, and the street in Northern Ireland where 10-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) lives is bustling with kids playing soccer, neighbors running in and out of row houses, mothers chatting in doorways and calling their children in for lunch. Then a mob suddenly appears from around a corner, with masked men throwing Molotov cocktails and setting cars on fire. Everything is chaos and jittery camera movements as folks scramble. Soon, British troops are checking papers and tanks are rolling down the block. It’s ground zero for the August Riots, which would set the stage for the sectarian violence that would become synonymous with Belfast for decades. These militants want the Catholics out of this largely Protestant neighborhood. They will burn every shop and home to the ground if they have to.

Buddy’s family is Protestant. His dad (Jamie Dornan) works in England, however, and has no issue with those of another faith — which makes the whole clan a target. It also takes him away from the family a lot, much to consternation of Buddy, his brother, and his long-suffering mom ( Outlander ‘s Catríona Balfe). Luckily, the lad has support from his grandparents (Ciarán Hinds and Dame Judi Dench), who, when they aren’t affectionately bickering with each other, counsel Buddy about how to woo the brainy girl he has a crush on. An older friend, Moira (Lara McDonnell), teaches him how to nick chocolate bars from the sweets shop. Star Trek is on TV, One Million Years B.C. is playing at the Saturday matinee picture show, blue-eyed Celtic soul is on every jukebox, and a man just landed on the moon. Life is beautiful, until it isn’t. Belfast is Buddy’s kingdom, his safe place, until it can’t be any longer.

Belfast, Kenneth Branagh ’s semi-autobiographical tale of growing up in late-Sixties Northern Ireland, is a major change of pace for the man who was once dubbed “the next Laurence Olivier,” and easily the best thing he’s done as a writer-director in decades. (All apologies to Hercule Poirot’s mustache .) It’s a memory piece, evoking a specific time, place, and political crisis in a way that is indelibly, achingly personal. This is the territory that the writer-director is staking out: the fertile ground where nostalgia meets history, filtered through both a boy’s eyes and an older man’s memory banks. It’s a look back in anger, for sure — but it also revisits the moment when the gates of Eden closed behind him that’s brimming with the wistful pang you get from flipping through old photographs, each more faded from time than the last.

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If you had to sum up Belfast in a single image, you could do worse than Dornan and Balfe dancing in the street with each other, smiles on their faces as familiar Irish R&B (new then, old now) plays, with the whole scene framed behind a loose wall of barbed wire. It’s a movie that very much has the Troubles in mind, but as part of a bigger picture that constitutes the filmmaker’s feelings about his hometown. The violence isn’t just background noise so much as one of the louder, more dissonant instruments in an orchestra he’s conducting. And it’s the motivating factor for the family having to contemplate leaving their community behind. Like Branagh, who moved to England with his parents and siblings when he was nine, Buddy will eventually have to say goodbye. But it’s part of the legacy of the Irish to leave anyway, as resiliency and relocation has become as associated with their culture as shamrocks and shillelagh s; as one character declares, “all [we] need to survive is a phone, a pint and the sheet music to ‘Danny Boy.'”

Cup your hands around your ears, and you’ll hear the faint sound of comparisons to Roma being whispered in the wind, partially because Belfast ‘s particular mix of the past’s lighter and darker shades are reminiscent of Alfonso Cuarón’s 2018 masterpiece , and partially because Branagh’s film is also largely shot in black-and-white. (The rare uses of color are mostly reserved for the movies and plays Buddy attends; it’s an effective if heavy-handed homage to the life-changing magic of art.) You can’t say that this latest cine-memoir balances the same mixture of poetry and memoir as deftly as that earlier film; few movies could. But it knows how to find and hit the emotional sweet spots, from the agony of nationalist strife and the ecstasy of Buddy’s parents lip-syncing “Everlasting Love” at a wake. Even viewers who don’t feel their buttons being pushed — or rather, mashed — by the soundtrack cues (there are so, so, so many Van Morrison songs), period details and the Hinds-Dench version of these guys will find themselves drawn in by the heartstrings Branagh is plucking here. Some viewers in particular, likely of the Academy-voting persuasion. We aren’t saying Belfast has been designed to win awards — there’s way too much of Branagh’s blood on the table for that. But its mix of gravitas, sentimentality, salty wit, tragedy, and roman à clef storytelling is most definitely Academy catnip.

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It’s also a movie that can’t help overplaying its hand, which means you don’t just get a kid’s-eye view of Buddy’s Da, a larger-than-life defender of the family with a superhero jawline, standing 10 stories tall — you also see him facing down the local gangsters-turned-holy-warriors while Tex Ritter’s theme song to High Noon plays over the soundtrack. (That callback to an earlier clip of the Gary Cooper Western is a far less self-conscious reference from Branagh than, say, the Norse God on the comic book Buddy is seen reading. Ahem. ) There are a handful of moments when you can sense things gliding from a child’s sense of melodrama to a moviemaker’s cup runneth over.

And yet, Belfast isn’t a work that stoops to conquer. The coming-of-age uplift rests next to the dull ache of remembrance in a manner befitting of the tale Branagh is telling. We don’t know whether Buddy will grow up to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, become his generation’s premier interpreter of the Bard, and foster a career in the arts that allows him to recreate the moment his childhood innocence ended. We do know, however, that the person behind this remarkably melancholy and tender flashback has a need to tell that 10-year-old boy that everything will turn out ok in the end. And you leave the theater having felt privileged to have eavesdropped on their conversation.

A version of this review originally ran in September during our coverage of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

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review on movie belfast


Belfast movie review: Kenneth Branagh’s Oscar winner for Original Screenplay is a feel-good blend of wit and drama

Set against a turbulent phase of northern ireland history, kenneth branagh's belfast sets up coming-of-age vibes in black and white..

The panoramic montage of modern Belfast right at the start strikes a fascinating contrast to the film that follows. The brief sequence is among a few that Kenneth Branagh has shot in colour for his black and white ode to nostalgia and is executed with a sense of impersonal calm before his trip down memory lane, brimming with humour and high drama, takes over.

Writer-director Branagh’s film is set against The Troubles, or the tumultuous phase of ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that started in the late 1960s and lasted till the late nineties. The story opens on August 15, 1969. Rioters have taken over the streets of a working-class locality in the nation’s Capital city, Belfast, denouncing Catholics. Arson and violence follow, and you know life for people on the street — Catholics as well as Protestants — who have lived in harmony for decades, will not be the same again.

Branagh’s storytelling is not as grim as that backdrop might suggest. He chooses to narrate all that unfolds from the perspective of nine-year-old Buddy (played by feature debutant Jude Hill), which lets the director retain a gaze of innocence as wit and rightly-portioned melodrama mingle with a sense of understated chaos. The idea to package North Ireland’s most turbulent phase in history as the quasi-fictional memoir of a child lets Branagh avoid focus on the violent politics inherent in his saga. History puritans, as well as those that suffered through the three decades, might feel let down at such a cinematic approach to craft feel-good vibes, but Branagh’s effort is engaging enough as coming-of-age drama to justify his Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay. In various interviews, the filmmaker has described Belfast as his “most personal film”.

More than the real-life hostility used to propel the reel-life drama, Branagh’s Belfast comes alive through Buddy’s intimate experiences of the little things that define the metropolis of his growing-up years.

The apparent disconnect between a child’s innocence and the complicated socio-political mess that plays out in the world outside is utilised well by Branagh to set up a story that holds interest. In an early scene, even as widespread mayhem rages in the streets, Buddy and his brother Will (Lewis McAskie) lounge in the living room watching Star Trek on TV. “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, its five-year mission to explore strange new worlds,” booms William Shatner ’s voice as Captain James T. Kirk. The obvious nostalgia that an allusion to Star Tek leaves in minds apart, the sequence is a smart ploy to herald what lies ahead. Shatner’s voiceover talks of missions “to seek out new life and new civilisations” and “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. Buddy’s Pa ( Jamie Dornan ), who works in London, talks of the idea of leaving Belfast for good, given the escalating lawlessness. He wants to emigrate to Sydney or Vancouver, though Buddy’s Ma ( Caitriona Balfe ) isn’t quite convinced.

Belfast movie review Kenneth Branaghs Oscar winner for Original Screenplay is a feelgood blend of wit and drama

For Buddy, the thought of leaving Belfast, his friends and, most of all, his grandparents ( Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds) is shattering. It is an agony that the narrative uses well, to demonstrate how the sincere sentiment a child might harbour, about being torn away from his beloved city, can be infinitely more powerful than the vested passions that drive armed public frenzy for political gains. It is a recurrent notion in the script, simply rendered every time to set up a sentimental connect with the viewer.

Hill as the little Buddy is flawless bringing alive Branagh’s days of boyhood, and the primary reason the film remains a lovable experience despite its constant tendency to manipulate audience emotions. The young actor is central to all that goes on, and features in almost every frame as the script captures the essence of the city through his actions. The film’s effort to maintain a happy mood all through is imaginatively rendered even in the most sombre of situations. A riot involving the looting of shops to avenge an earlier Protestant violence sees little Buddy getting mixed up with the action, and Branagh’s execution of the sequence is all about sardonic wit involving a family size packet of biological washing powder. Highlighting the pointlessness of ethnic violence, the screenplay cocks a snook at the Church, too. “Protestants, you will die!” hollers a minister from his Catholic pulpit after sermonising about the two paths in life to choose from (which leaves Buddy very confused), and then immediately yells, “Now, money!”, seeking donation.

Yet, the city is also Branagh’s den of discoveries. Buddy and Will watch with wide-eyed awe as Raquel Welch plays out cavewoman capers in the 1966 adventure flick One Million Years B.C. during a family’s day out at the movies (“Raquel Welch is hell of an education for the boys,” their Ma admonishes Pa, after he claims the boys could learn something watching the film). Irish football legend Danny Blanchflower finds homage through a wall graffiti. As the street outside Buddy’s home is fenced off for safety and a system of neighbourhood night watch is introduced, the television plays out showdown drama featuring James Stewart and John Wayne in the Hollywood classic, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance . Belfast is really a mood piece, and Branagh’s triumph lies in the effortlessness with which he lets his audience soak in the feel-good vibes.

Belfast movie review Kenneth Branaghs Oscar winner for Original Screenplay is a feelgood blend of wit and drama

As director, Branagh has mostly attempted book-to-film projects in the past, from Shakespeare ( Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Love’s Labour’s Lost, As You Like It ) to Agatha Christie ( Murder On The Orient Express, Death On The Nile ) to Tom Clancy ( Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit ) to Mary Shelley ’s Frankenstein, Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl and Cinderella . In Belfast, an original screenplay, Branagh reserves a scene where Buddy pores over a Thor comicbook, almost as if to remind he directed the 2011 global hit of that name featuring Chris Hemsworth as the Marvel superhero. Branagh’s directorial approach in Belfast is understandably more relaxed, since he was narrating his own tale.

If Belfast is a film about creating specific milieu, Haris Zambarloukos’ cinematography and Van Morrison’s music merit full marks. The technical finesse about the film comes alive, especially in scenes that capture Buddy’s bursts of imagination. A scene where he is out with his family watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang , the 1968 musical adventure film about a magical flying car, is brilliantly captured in colour. The symbolism that art helps bring alive the true essence of life is also underlined by the use of colour photography for a sequence where the family is out watching the play, A Christmas Carol .

Aided by a robust cast and setting up wholesome entertainment, Branagh’s Belfast is universal in impact for the nostalgic whiff it pitches as its USP. The film is a moody piece that aims to transport its audience to a happy space. Black and white in treatment, it bursts with the myriad hues of life.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5 stars)

Belfast is available on BookMyShow Stream, 3 June onwards

Vinayak Chakravorty is a critic, columnist, and film journalist based in Delhi-NCR.

​​ Read all the  Latest News ,  Trending News ,  Cricket News ,  Bollywood News ,  India News  and  Entertainment News  here. Follow us on  Facebook ,  Twitter  and  Instagram . ​

Updated Date: June 02, 2022 11:47:07 IST

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Time Out says

Kenneth Branagh conjures a soulful and sweet cine-memoir fro the pain of a boyhood in the Troubles

It’s summer 1969. Man has just walked on the moon and the British Army has just marched on to the streets of north Belfast. Star Trek -mad nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill), who uses goals painted to the walls to emulate his footballing hero Danny Blanchflower, soon finds armed Tommies patrolling his old penalty box. Reading his beloved Thor  comics outside his terraced house is suddenly fraught with hazard, not least from the broken glass left by sectarian rioting.

Possibly the most uplifting film ever made about a time of unending violence, Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast comes with a bruised heart and an unquenchable spirit of optimism. Like its young hero, it keeps its eyes on the stars even as the hell of the Troubles breaks out in its midst.

You may not need telling that Buddy, played with loveable chops by Hill, is based on Branagh’s younger self – or reminding that Branagh grew up to support Blanchflower’s team, Spurs, and make a movie about Thor . All that autobiographical detail underpins a film that radiates sincerity and warmth, even as its family are buffeted by grim events outside their front door and friction inside. 

Painful rows break out between Ma and Pa (Caitriona Balfe, a revelation, and Jamie Dornan) over unpaid tax bills and a future shrouded in uncertainty. Pa, a joiner, regularly heads to England to earn his corn, and his absences cause resentment. It’s not his fault there are no gigs closer to home, but Belfast  is great at showing how misery breeds in the absence of choice. Luckily, Granny (Judi Dench) and Pop (Ciarán Hinds) are on hand to make sense of it all, like a pair of wise old owls with bus passes.

review on movie belfast

It all moves to the sounds of Van Morrison, whose songs lend a timeless quality that sits perfectly alongside cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’s crisp black-and-white images.

Somehow Branagh conjured all this up during the pandemic, digging into his memory banks to tell the story of a different kind of lockdown. At times, he borrows the grammar of westerns – the flicks Buddy gazes up at in his local cinema – to show us this tough world through a child’s eyes: a place where heroes strive to keep villains in their place – and get you in for tea.  In UK cinemas Jan 21 .

Phil de Semlyen

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