Belfast Parent Guide
It's a remarkable achievement to make a moving film about a violent period that isn't filled with disturbing violence.
Parent Movie Review
Buddy’s (Jude Hill) Belfast neighborhood is almost too good to be true. Everyone knows everyone else, everyone keeps an eye on the kids playing in the street, everyone banters back and forth…but things are changing in Northern Ireland. Sectarian violence has broken out between the largely Protestant unionists and the largely Catholic republicans, threatening to tear the nation apart.
Even armed gangs and British soldiers can’t stop Buddy from growing up. He continues to study, play with his friends, and develop a bit of a crush on a girl from school – all in all, a normal childhood in a time of troubles. His father (Jamie Dornan), on the other hand, is starting to think it might be time to move the family to England, where he’s been working, to spare them the worst of the conflict. His mother (Caitríona Balfe) objects, hoping to keep the family just where they’ve always been, in their tight-knit community in Belfast. As the violence intensifies, they may have to make that choice sooner than either of them would like…and far before Buddy is ready to leave his home.
Based largely on director Kenneth Branagh’s own childhood in Belfast, the film is a bittersweet love letter to the city, and a heartbreaking look at how that city was torn apart in The Troubles. Buddy’s neighborhood is brought to vivid life thanks to a superb supporting cast, consisting of Dame Judy Dench, Ciarán Hinds, and Jamie Dornan. Were that not enough to pique your interest, the soundtrack by fellow Belfast native Van Morrison is another reason to give the film a chance.
I’m not entirely sure how Branagh has managed to make a film about one of the most dangerous periods of modern Irish history with so little negative content, but he’s done so without sacrificing any of the story’s emotional impact. Told exclusively from Buddy’s point of view, we barely even hear about (let alone see) the violence from which his parents are so eager to shield him. There’s also remarkably little drinking or profanity. The movie’s PG-13 rating is fair – it’s certainly suitable for teenagers, providing they’re willing to sit through a drama shot entirely in black and white.
Despite the film’s monochromatic palette, its excellent cast, brisk Irish wit, and heartfelt look at a time gone by give it more than enough color to keep an audience enthralled. If you’re here to see Kenneth Branagh, fear not, he does appear in the film – but only for a moment. Don’t worry if you miss it: his abiding love for his hometown and his childhood shines through every frame, and I think that gives us a better measure of the man.Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Jude Hill, Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds, Catriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan. Running time: 98 minutes. Theatrical release November 12, 2021. Updated February 24, 2022
Watch the trailer for Belfast
Rating & Content Info
Why is Belfast rated PG-13? Belfast is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some violence and strong language
Violence: Several riots are seen. A person is struck in the hand with a rock. A man is punched in the head. A dead body is seen in a casket. A child is threatened with death.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There is one use of extreme profanity and a single scatological curse. There are infrequent uses of mild curses and terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are briefly seen drinking socially.
Page last updated February 24, 2022
Belfast Parents' Guide
What caused The Troubles in Northern Ireland? How did the British Army become involved? What were the results of their involvement? What brought an end to the violence? How has the conflict affected Northern Ireland today?
Imperial War Museum: What You Need to Know About the Troubles
Wikipedia: The Troubles
Wikipedia: Northern Ireland peace process
The Global Observatory: Protecting the Peace Process in Post-Brexit Northern Ireland
The Washington Post: Why the hope for peace is waning in Northern Ireland
Related home video titles:
While (marginally) less focused on the complicated history and politics of Ireland, family audiences will enjoy the beautifully animated film, Wolfwalkers.
Adults interested in films about The Troubles may enjoy The Crying Game, In the Name of the Father, Bloody Sunday, or for the American audience, Patriot Games.