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

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.

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

For example, when Pa (Jamie Dornan, as good in a dramatic film role as I’ve seen him) and Ma (Caitriona Balfe, the film’s ambivalent beating heart) float out the idea of leaving their small Belfast neighborhood for somewhere near London, Hill’s irrational overreaction feels perfectly in line with his age and life experience.

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. You can feel them burrowing into the black and white depictions of 19th Century American life as if it’ll block out the marital distress enveloping their home.