Review: ‘Belfast’ is as Warm as a Geansaí Árann, But Significantly Thinner

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Belfast is a kind, gentle film full of kind, gentle performances about one of the darkest eras in Northern Ireland history. There’s plenty to like, even some to love.

However, every time The Troubles intrude, it’s impossible not to notice how small, how slight the film feels.

Part of this is arguably by design. Buddy (Jude Hill), nine years old, is our way into the story. Played with unshowy realism by Hill, Buddy is a good, naïve kid. As a result, it makes sense that his grasp of rising religious and nationalistic tensions—as well as familial strain–around him would either sail over his head or be too big for him to approach understanding.

In some places, the moments the big stuff disrupts Buddy’s world feel honest and well-handled.

Similarly, Belfast does well in how it stages his parent’s arguments about work and finances flicker behind and around him. He and his brother watch Westerns on television in the foreground.

Unfortunately, Belfast can never find the valence to capture how The Troubles would feel through Buddy’s eyes. Buddy’s street seems evenly divided between Protestant families—of which Buddy’s is one—and Catholic ones.

Then, though, comes the film’s most egregious scene. Protestants have decided to riot once again and have targeted a Catholic-owned general store for looting.

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