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TIFF 2021: “Belfast”


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Each country on Earth has had or still has moments of turmoil. Days that are filled with anger, war, bloodshed, and tears. What should then one do, when the time comes to make a decision? To stay and face the tragic history or leave home behind, because there is no other choice?

During those times, every child goes through breakthrough moments. They have to grow up quickly, forgetting about their childhood life. When they see war, fights, violent protests, they must act swiftly – and remaining a child at that moment is not an option. Buddy (Jude Hill) is a little boy living in Northern Island’s capital, Belfast, and must endure the unthinkable as he navigates through the chaos.

The film opens with stellar panoramic full-color shots of Belfast today but then takes us quickly to Aug 15th, 1969, a black-and-white view of the city with a bunch of kids socializing with each other, playing soccer and having a fun time. Suddenly, the sublime and heartwarming scene turns into a wild protest with adults shouting and screaming as loud as they could. Stores were vandalized, cars set on fire, the entire community falls within seconds, and little Buddy is in the middle of it.

Buddy’s family, mother, Ma (Caitríona Balfe) and Pa (Jamie Dornan) try their best to protect the family. Even though Dornan’s character joins later, it’s with complexity and ease, as he is pressured to take a side in the unneeded violence. Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, inspired by pivotal childhood moments, “Belfast” is another film that will touch your heart and soul. As it explores the importance of living in a much-loved community, questions arise such as, what if it’s time to move on, leave the city and go somewhere else where it’s safe?

With impressive photography and editing, “Belfast” is a film that takes you down the memory lane for anyone who had to go through chaos, leave their homes for a better place, for those who stayed no matter what, and those who died trying. Filled with heartwarming performances from the entire cast, it’s Jude Hill and Caitríona Balfe who steal every scene they are in. Through the prism of a mother and son, we see the life shining bright, yet gets darkened as it gets filled with horror. The two will rely on each other and hold each other’s hands. And when the time comes, will be there to say their final goodbyes, if they are lucky to survive the violence.

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