20 January 2022, The Tablet

Bringing home the Troubles

Bringing home the Troubles

Belfast: Branagh’s portrait of family life during the Troubles
Photo: Focus Features, Rob Youngson


Director: Kenneth Branagh

A child’s-eye view of a complex situation is not necessarily simplistic, as Kenneth Branagh’s delicate semi-autobiographical film about growing up in Belfast during the onset of the Troubles satisfyingly reveals.

Buddy (Jude Hill) is nine years old when sectarian violence erupts in the working-class street that is the tight-knit centre of his world. Some Catholic families pack up and leave; the remaining Protestants police a protective barricade, and some, including Buddy’s Pa (Jamie Dornan), are increasingly leant on to join neighbours bent on further violence.

Belfast explores the way in which what has become history seeps into the life of one extended family, forcing reluctant and anguished decisions that would not otherwise have been contemplated. Branagh chose to name his characters only as Buddy knows them – Ma, Pa, Granny and Pop – reinforcing the sense that this could be any family at that divisive moment.

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