Rated PG-13, but there is an f-bomb in there. Apparently, PG-13 movies are allowed two, but that's entirely anecdotal and I refuse to look up if that's true. Because the movie is from a child's perspective, a lot of the movie has an innocent tone with a more sinister setting. It's kind of To Kill a Mockingbird in that respect. There is violence all due to cultural hatred and there is some real darkness in the movie. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
I do love Oscar season. Sure, it gets really overwhelming to write as much as I now decided that I have to, but I get to watch movies with a certain standard. I kept seeing Belfast show up on the live nominations and I realized that I hadn't even heard of this one, despite the fact that it had earned so many accolades. With my class, we watched the trailer and it looked charming. Because I don't want to spiral, I will say that the trailer is horribly misleading in terms of tone. It looks like this vibrant story in the midst of religious tension. Really, the movie is mostly about the religious tension with some sweet parts peppered through it.
I went to Ireland in high school. I stayed with an Irish family. Heck, I even had a professor who talked ad nauseum about Sinn Fein, despite the fact that it had nothing to do with the class. There's something that's always been a little bit removed for me when it came to the conflict between the Irish and the Catholics in Northern Ireland. You'd think that someone who has a history degree would be able to give you the play-by-plays, but I don't really have that knowledge. But I also didn't know that Kenneth Branagh grew up in this era. This is one of those semi-autobiographical movies. Everything in the film screams verisimilitude. The weird thing? I don't associate this kind of movie with Kenneth Branagh. Heck, I don't know what I associate with Kenneth Branagh.
Part of me will always think of him as the Shakespeare guy. After all, that's what brought him to the public consciousness. But then he also started to be this director for hire. When I saw his name attached to films like Thor or Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, I started putting him in his own category. Now, I don't know what to think of him. So seeing a movie that is intensely personal and vulnerable, it's something new. I mean, I approve. I'm always going to be a fan of vulnerability. And this movie is entirely vulnerable. I made the comparison to To Kill a Mockingbird and that is such a great choice on my part. Guys, I'm really smart. Like, really smart. You guys should admire me. The film of To Kill a Mockingbird plays up the monochromatic elements of film, despite being made in an era where Technicolor ruled. But also, the idea that the protagonist, Buddy, has a direct correlation with Scout.
Oh geez. Oh geez, I just cracked this thing open. I should be writing this to get published beyond Weebly. Buddy v. Scout? Both child protagonists exist in the shadow of their own nicknames. Despite being avatars for the author's childhood, these names represent the universality of the story. Yeah, I never grew up in war torn Belfast. But Buddy is the human experience. He's in this place where his problems seem to be the biggest issues in the world. (Realize, this entire paragraph is a comparison of Buddy to Scout. Just to save time, assume that Scout does the same thing.) Buddy and Scout (see, I already broke my own rule) are obsessed with what people at school think. They are both intellectuals who are still wildly ignorant of the bizarre circumstances of their places in history. Older siblings are there to juxtapose the reality of the situation to the childlike blindness that surrounds them. But most importantly, these are two children who view their place in history through the eyes of a father who comes across as someone who can do no wrong.
But it is in the differences between To Kill a Mockingbird and Belfast that we build the difference of character. Buddy has a mother in his life. Not only does he have a mother in his life, but he actually is quite close to his mother and his grandparents. His father, while being a noble character, comes across as a deeply flawed parent. He's still great. He's no Dad from Bluey, but he is a formative person in Buddy's life. But Dad represents something that is desperately needed in this: practicality. During the past four years' turmoil, I think that we got pretty close to civil war. I had the conversation with my wife that, if things got bad, would we be willing to leave America. I took the position that Dad did in Belfast. He's of the opinion that survival and well being is the most important thing. My wife took the same perspective as Mom: home is so much more important than address. Mom is deeply attached to Belfast in the movie. She understands that the world doesn't look well on the Irish. It's a thing that may seem absurd, considering that the Irish in America seem to be simply part of the White establishment. But Mom embraces the rich cultural heritage of her home, despite this very invasive threat the the world.
And at the center of that threat is Buddy, who is growing up in violence. Because the story is bildungsroman, everything that happens in this movie becomes a foundation for who Buddy / Branagh is going to be. He views movies and television as shaping moments, using the politics of Star Trek and the integrity of High Noon to shape the goodness and evil of the world around him. But Mom also sees the temptations that a boy his age faces. Foolishness looks very different when neighbor is killing neighbor. There's a scene where Buddy shoplifts a Turkish Delight from the local store. It's treated with humor. But Buddy is also thrown in a situation where the act of theft is the same, but the scale of the action is horrifying. Buddy, during a riot, is pressured to steal something, so he steals some dish cleaner for his mother. Thinking that he is doing a good act (and learning that Turkish Delight helps no one), he brags to his mother about his good deed. But it is in this action that Buddy sees the horror of humanity. He sees that violence is ultimately about power and that people are desperate to show that they are in control of the world around them. It's heartbreaking and terrifying.
You know? Finding that tie to To Kill a Mockingbird made me like the movie more. I don't know if the Van Morrison stuff works as well as the movie thinks it does, but the movie does have this deep message about the role of hatred in a microcosm. Yeah, we understand that this is happening all over Northern Ireland, but we only get to view this violence from Buddy's street. It's kind of a huge step for Kenneth Branagh. He's a very talented dude, but I like that he kind of took it to the next level.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.