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The Crack Magazine

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Belfast

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Stars: Jude Hill, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds

Shades of John Boorman’s wartime memoir ‘Hope and Glory’ and Woody Allen’s paean to family life ‘Radio Days’ in Kenneth Branagh’s shamelessly crowd-pleasing, but genuinely charming, funny and poignant semi-autobiographical tale of growing up in the titular city in 1969 at the onset of the Troubles. Impressive newcomer Hill is Branagh surrogate Buddy, a carefree lad who lives with his Ma and Pa in a mixed Catholic and Protestant community. Buddy also enjoys a good relationship with his grandmother and grandfather (Dench and Hinds). Regular family life is disrupted by the arrival of tanks and the subsequent sectarian violence. The film is more a collection of vignettes than trad narrative, so even when the family is beset by difficulty, such as when loyalists try to recruit Buddy’s dad to the cause, it remains predominantly a child’s eye view of events, and features nothing too harrowing. Very much an actor’s director, Branagh elicits fine performances from his ensemble: Balfe and Dornan ooze blue collar glamour, while Dench and Hinds, beneath their affectionate old couple banter, movingly signal their melancholy about the prospects of keeping the family together. The evocation of late 60s Belfast in gorgeously rendered black and white makes this akin to flipping through a well-thumbed, much-loved old photo album. Van Morrison, inevitably, supplies the jaunty soundtrack.

David Willoughby

Follow David on @DWill_Crackfilm

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