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Kenneth Branagh goes big when he should have gone small, as though he doesn’t have enough faith in the episodic, nostalgic material.

It's not easy to form a clear-cut opinion about Belfast, Kenneth Branagh's mostly autobiographical film about growing up in Ulster during the rise of Protestant-Catholic division lines in the late sixties.

Where the movie succeeds spectacularly is in bringing warm, believable characters to life, both through a bit of affectionate screenwriting and some of the best performances of the year, by the likes of Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe and old pros Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds, who make the most adorable aging couple you can imagine. They all shine brightest in the many small, intimate moments sprinkled throughout Belfast, where not much seems to happen but a wealth of emotion is knowingly hinted at.

Unfortunately the picture contains an equal amount of scenes that hammer home big themes and big emotions, which are handled with far from subtle direction and choppy, at times annoyingly rushed editing, as if Branagh does not have enough faith in the episodic, nostalgic material to have the desired emotional oomph on its own.

Thus, despite a touching finale, I'm not sure if the parts of Belfast I like outweigh the ones I don't.

release: 2021

director: Kenneth Branagh

starring: Jude Hill, Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judy Dench, Ciaran Hinds


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