Have you booked your tickets for Belfast yet? Kenneth Branagh's acclaimed new drama is a real talking point ahead of this year's Oscars, and has been acclaimed for its sensitive, child's-eye view of the world. The movie takes place in the 1970s in the eponymous city where political tensions are threatening to tear entire communities and families apart. Navigating it all is the young Buddy, a kid guided by his loving family and childhood instincts.
Click here to find out more about the movie and why you absolutely cannot miss it in Cineworld.
1. Kenneth Branagh describes it as his most personal movie
In an interview with NME, Branagh described the making of Belfast as "a chance to go home". Like his central character Buddy, Branagh grew up amidst the Troubles on a working-class estate in the middle of Belfast, and he was able to translate those intensely personal memories into the movie. Consequently, Belfast is Branagh's most deeply-felt project in years, and this coming from a leading UK filmmaker who has successfully diversified into Shakespeare adaptations, Marvel blockbusters and Agatha Christie thrillers.
“It’s been a place that calls to me all the time," says Branagh of the city, "even though really after the first few years of my career I don’t think the larger world had any sense that I was even from there. When I went back in 2011 I still felt as though there was a sort of identity crisis that was unresolved. Ireland and the Irish define so much of themselves in relation to home – it needs to be settled in some way. And I think making this film is a chance for me to go home in a sort of more honest way.”
2. It showcases a sublime breakout performance from Jude Hill
Remember the name: the cherubic Jude Hill, aged just 11 years old, will almost certainly win your heart when you watch Belfast. His portrayal of Buddy strikes notes of childhood innocence and glimmers of wisdom beyond his years. The latter point is accentuated by the entrenched political complexities that surround him – one fears that Buddy will grow up too fast, as seen when he crushes on a Catholic classmate who hails from the opposite side of the divide.
Recognising the physical and emotional peril that comes with living in Belfast, his family contemplates moving away to begin a new life elsewhere. Buddy's emotional journey is sure to ring true with viewers on a number of different levels, and the critics have hailed his performance. The BFI writes: "Thanks to Jude Hill’s bright-eyed, uncannily believable performance, Belfast picks up every time he’s on screen, while Branagh’s writing affectingly shapes the vulnerability and stroppy petulance of this innocent pitched into jeopardy."
3. There's an excellent supporting cast of established actors
If Hill's performance is brilliantly unfettered and spontaneous in the manner of classic child performances, then the veterans surrounding him pull most of the heavy lifting. Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey) plays Buddy's pragmatic yet loving Da who is compelled to earn a wage by working in England. Caitriona Balfe (Le Mans '66) plays Buddy's ma while his grandparents are played by the sublime thespian duo of Judi Dench (Skyfall) and Ciaran Hinds (Harry Potter). It's a multigenerational cast that effortlessly evokes the bickering, bantering and heartfelt nature of a true family unit.
4. Belfast dazzled audiences in our Secret Unlimited screening
Branagh's latest movie acted as our 14th Secret Unlimited Screening, and the crowds loved it. From Jude Hill's performance to the lustrous monochrome visuals, click here to discover their responses.
5. Critics love it and are tipping the movie for Oscar success
Belfast has received glowing reviews for its nostalgic take on Branagh's own childhood, which combined with the visual aesthetic and score from Belfast boy Van Morrison has earmarked the movie as an Oscars frontunner.
"Possibly the most uplifting film ever made about a time of unending violence, Kenneth Branagh's Belfast comes with a bruised heart and an unquenchable spirit of optimism," writes Phil De Semylen for Time Out.
The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw writes: "There is a terrific warmth and tenderness to Kenneth Branagh’s elegiac, autobiographical movie about the Belfast of his childhood: spryly written, beautifully acted and shot in a lustrous monochrome." In summary, Bradshaw describes the movie as "a seductive piece of myth-making."
And in her review for Screen International, Fionnuala Hannigan writes: "The result is engaging, tender film-making which tugs at the heartstrings, spurred by a sympathetic cast and the young lead, newcomer Jude Hill. Best compared, perhaps, with John Boorman’s Hope And Glory, Belfast is more led by its love for family and community than detailing the external forces which threaten to tear them apart."
6. Belfast is released this January
Mark it down: Belfast is released in Cineworld cinemas on 21st January.