Oscars 2022: The tenderness of "Belfast"

"Belfast", by Kenneth Branagh, portrays a happy childhood in the midst of a violent context. It is nominated for 7 categories at the Oscar Awards. This is our review.

Still from the movie 'Belfast'

Photo: Universal Pictures

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Rodríguez Pabón

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Leer en español: Óscars 2022: La ternura de "Belfast"

Keneth Branagh portrays in "Belfast" his childhood memories in the Northern Ireland city. The story takes place in Belfast in 1969, when the conflict between Catholics and Protestants is starting. There lives Buddy, the protagonist of the film, who is a happy boy who loves his parents and his brother Will. Also, he wants to do well in math so he can sit next to the girl he likes at school. His grandparents help him in this purpose while solving his questions about the conflict, which has already reached his city.

"Belfast" has seven Oscar nominations. It has the perfect formula to please the Academy: it is a film about a conflict from the perspective of a child. Other times we have seen films about the Second World War that highlight the absurdity of genocide when they show it from a child's perspective. Thus, for Buddy it makes no sense that the houses of the Catholic families with whom he has always lived in his city are attacked. He has been raised in a loving and tolerant family environment, so his parents are not interested in being agents of the conflict either, which is seen as a betrayal by the most radical Protestants.

With conflict and division deepening in Belfast, Buddy's family is in jeopardy and they are threatened for not joining the Protestant cause. This way it becomes increasingly clear that the family will have to leave Belfast.

A family that leaves

The Belfast family portrait is quite idealized. Buddy's parents are beautiful, in love with each other, compassionate and well loved by the community in which they live. Despite the fact that the film shows a couple of misunderstandings between the parents, who have different opinions about what they should do in the middle of the conflict, this marriage is portrayed in an idyllic way. The relationship of children with grandparents and grandparents with parents is also tender and devoid of conflict.

Without a doubt, "Belfast" is not too interested in exploring what can happen to family ties in the midst of conflict, because here these ties end up practically intact: the children do not resent the parents for their decisions, nor do the parents fall out of love. However, the family is the center of the film, perhaps in another sense. Like Buddy's parents, the film protects, perhaps too much, this family image, this idyllic portrait. And this gesture of tenderness is the knot of "Belfast": that joy, dance, and complicity can exist in the midst of division and discrimination.

This memory exercise that decides to focus on friendship and joy is perhaps somewhat risky but no less challenging given the cliché of childhood marked by war. This idyllic view of the family also allows the film to explore the theme of simplicity in the face of what is important. Branagh's film decides to ask the simple question: what if we leave Belfast, Will I not be able to see the girl who loved me?  Will our grandparents come?, Will they understand my accent? Here are some of Buddy's simple but important concerns. In this case, then, the child's perspective reveals not only the absurdity of war but also important worries, which tends to be blurred in the context of the conflict, in which there is only room to think about surviving.

Read also: Oscars 2022: New monstrosities in "Nightmare Alley"

Will he win the Oscar?

Despite the fact that it has a couple of overly explanatory dialogues and that it falls into clichés, such as the Protestant boy who falls in love with a Catholic girl, "Belfast" is a moving film. Buddy's father and grandfather give the children somewhat forced teachings, which sometimes they come out unnaturally. However, it is perhaps the simplicity of these little conflictive links that allows the viewer to be moved by this story. "Belfast" does not take many risks, but it is hard to hate. This pleases the Academy, so maybe "Belfast" will win the award.