In his three decades of filmmaking, Kenneth Branagh has ushered us into Henry V’s campaign at Agincourt, Thor’s celestial chambers on Asgard, and murderous intrigues aboard the Orient Express. Branagh’s latest work unfolds in a much more real-world and familiar setting for the prolific actor, writer, and director. Named after the city of his birth, Belfast is Branagh’s most personal — and most affecting — film yet.
A coming-of-age drama set during the tumult of late-1960s Northern Ireland, the film follows young Buddy (Jude Hill) as he navigates a landscape of working-class struggle, sweeping cultural changes, and sectarian violence. Buddy dreams of a glamorous future that will whisk him far from the Troubles, but, in the meantime, he finds consolation in his charismatic Pa (Jamie Dornan) and Ma (Caitríona Balfe), and his spry, tale-spinning grandparents (Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench).
Its story is rooted in blood ties, Belfast is also a family affair behind the scenes, as Branagh reunites with many long-time collaborators, such as production designer Jim Clay, director of photography Haris Zambarloukos, and editor Úna Ní Dhonghaíle. Together they’ve crafted a film that is characteristically meticulous in its evocation of a particular place and time, while Branagh’s superb cast fills every scene with energy, idiosyncrasy, and heart.
Just Announced: The cast of Kenneth Branagh’s “Belfast,” including Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench, will follow young Jude Hill’s lead on the road to the Academy Awards. Variety has learned exclusively that Focus Features will campaign Hill for lead actor consideration during the awards season, with the rest of the cast going for supporting recognition.
Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Documentary Award winner