Northern Ireland, Belfast, August 1969. Events are shown through the eyes of a 9-year-old boy, Buddy (Jude Hill), who lives in a Protestant family. Buddy has an older brother Will (Lewis Maceskey), mother Ma (Catrina Balfe), who takes care of home and family, and father Pa (Jamie Dornan), who is at home only on weekends: Pa has a job in England, and he earns money there. family maintenance.
Buddy also has a beloved grandmother (Judi Dench) and grandfather Pop (Kieran Hinds). Pop worked for a long time as a miner in England, undermined his health and received a serious lung disease.
A few days before the events described, in another Northern Irish city of Derry, clashes broke out between Catholics seeking the independence of Northern Ireland from England, and Protestants who were loyal to the British crown. After that, the riots spread to several other cities – including Belfast, where Protestants began pogroms of Catholic families.
Buddy himself and his family are watching how once such a quiet Belfast, where everyone knows each other, suddenly turned into a dangerous place with pogroms, robberies of shops and other “charms”.
The British brought troops into the city to quell the unrest, the city was divided into zones with roadblocks.
Pa, arriving for the weekend, persuades Ma to leave Belfast with the children, where it has become really dangerous. But Ma does not understand how this is even possible: to leave his home and go to a completely alien and frightening unknown.
Kenneth Branagh, who directed this film, is an actor and director. As an actor, he has played in more than seven dozen films (remember the recent “Tenet” and “Dunkirk”, also “Rock Wave” and “Celebrity”). As a director, he spent some time making well-received film productions of Shakespeare’s plays – “Much Ado About Nothing”, “Hamlet”, “Macbeth”, “Romeo and Juliet” – then made a strange remake of the classic “Detective”, then directed the first for Marvel ” Thor”, after which he shot a weak “Jack Ryan: Chaos Theory”, then it was the turn of a couple of coolly received detectives on Agatha Christie, and after that Branagh directed the children’s fantasy “Artemis Fowl”, which successfully competes for the title of “worst children’s fantasy ever centuries, amen.”
So stop, thought Kenneth Branagh after the crushing failure of Artemis Fowl, and decided that he still needed to do something with his directing career, which clearly sailed somewhere wrong. How to reverse this situation? Obviously – to make a movie that is hard-wired for an Oscar, that is, to make a movie that film academics will like. If you get recognition from critics, then here it will be easy to shoot at least “Jack Ryan vs. Juliet” – no problem!
What movie will critics like? Well, obviously, some movie confession about childhood memories. There is the recent “Roma” by Alfonso Cuarón, in which Cuarón spoke about his childhood spent in Mexico City in the early seventies: several awards won at the most prestigious international festivals: three Oscars, two Golden Globes, four BAFTAs, two awards in Venice , Goya Award, San Sebastian Award.
It’s a good thing, Branagh thought, to talk about his childhood memories. And since Branagh’s own childhood memories were of well-known events in Northern Ireland, he was sure it would work.
Then we proceed according to a clear scheme. First, we show modern Belfast in color, but then our memory takes us to black and white August 1969 (“Roma” is all black and white), and then we will show these events through the eyes of a touching boy with an obligatory gap in his mouth, who I had to grow up, being inside unpleasant and dangerous events.
Buddy will be touchingly friends with a Catholic classmate, Buddy will be touchingly in love with his grandparents, Buddy will be touchingly worried that his parents are quarreling, all this will be accompanied by rather haunting songs from Belfast native Van Morrison, of which there are about a dozen here, and over everything this will shine the Northern Irish sun, hinting that there must always be hope. Well, or that in the event of some “Troubles” (The Troubles, as these times were called), you can just go to hell, although you really don’t want to leave.
The black-and-white gamut in this case does not play any special role, and Branagh, unlike Cuarón, does not know how to work with it competently. From this whole street, entirely built on an abandoned airfield in Hampshire, it smells of terrible artificiality and inappropriate theatricality in this case, the cameraman struggled to find “interesting angles”, shooting with a wide-angle lens from somewhere under the feet of the actors or starting the camera to circle from the top point, and when closer to the finale all this kind of “confession” suddenly turns into almost a musical, then you are somehow not particularly surprised, because it is well clear that from the “confession” in Bran’s film – one name .
The director somehow reinsured himself by the fact that the events in the film are shown as if through the eyes of a nine-year-old child, but this still does not justify a noticeable touch of infantilism and obvious manipulativeness inherent in this film. In Cuarón’s “Roma” events also seem to be shown through the eyes of a little boy, but there was not an ounce of infantilism in his picture: all the characters were very natural and realistic. And in Branagh’s film, unfortunately, the characters are somewhat cardboard and one-sided. Touching – yes (film critics love this), but one-sided.
The actors in the film are busy being good, and they are trying their best to breathe life into their characters so that they are not so popular. Grandparents Judi Dench and Kieran Hinds are excellent, they pull this picture in many ways, but alas – there are not too many of them here.
Caitriona Balfe, as Ma, also did her best: she tried her best to bring a poorly written character to life. Well, Jamie Dornan as Pa had very little screen time at all – dad is there all the time on the backside, plows somewhere in England – and Pa turned out to be quite gray, and his confrontation with a militant revolutionary Protestant (extremely caricatured) was extremely unconvincing.
Jude Hill, who played the young Buddy, liked it. The boy is lively and natural, and he was perhaps the most striking character here (except for grandparents). I read that the film crew used the following technique: Jude was constantly filmed on cameras during rehearsals, carefully covering up the red LEDs that signal the shooting so that the boy would not guess anything. And a lot of those “rehearsal” scenes ended up in the final cut because Jude acted more natural when he didn’t know he was being filmed.
What is the result? I can’t call it a bad movie, it’s a good movie. Many viewers will love it. It’s just obvious to me that this is not a confession, it’s a carefully calculated manipulative craft that works well for a certain audience and, above all, for film critics. This picture has an average script, a manipulative and somewhat infantile production, strange and sometimes ridiculous camera decisions, but at the same time good acting.
The problem is that few directors can make a good film about their childhood. Because it’s insanely difficult. This was only possible with great masters such as Fellini and Cuarón. But Andy Garcia failed to do this, although he tried very hard in trying to talk about his youth in Havana and was really sincere.
Branagh, it seemed to me, did not even try at all. He knew what should be in the picture, so that film critics were imbued and began to languidly throw statuettes at him, and he did this, not particularly hiding this approach. And he guessed it: Belfast has seven Oscar nominations (won Best Screenplay, haha), seven Golden Globe nominations (won Best Screenplay, twice haha) , six nominations for the British BAFTA (won the award for “Best British Film”: however, the competitors there were “Last Night in Soho”, “No Time to Die” and other even less significant films, so it’s not surprising – as they say, without fish ), so who’s the fool here, you ask? Bagel and I are fools, obviously. We’re sitting here nagging something: it’s not like that, it’s not like that. Not to do justice to the director’s genius, right?
We give credit. But, of course, not the directorial genius of Branagh, who as a director is quite mediocre. We give credit to his instinct for how to put a picture under film awards. This is where he succeeded.
Well, we note that this picture can be viewed because of Judi Dench and Kieran Hinds alone. Still, great actors are great actors. They pull whatever you want, even Branagh’s Oscar-winning and globe-winning screenplay.
Sorry if I didn’t offend anyone.
Director: Kenneth Branagh Cast: Katrina Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds, Jude Hill, Lewis Maceskey, Josie Walker, Freya Yates, Nessa Ericsson, Charlie Barnard
Drama, UK, 2021, 98 min.