A first trailer has landed on the web for Belfast, which prolific actor-director Kenneth Branagh has called the “most personal” film of his career. Sporting some crisp, black-and-white cinematography, an impressive cast and an utter fascination with the beautiful faces of its characters, the trailer is immediately engrossing, although it can’t help but remind one of Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma in style. Still, we imagine Branagh wouldn’t mind the comparison too much if it means a Best Picture nomination for Belfast as well.
The film is based fairly intently on Branagh’s own experiences in Ireland as a young boy. The director was born in Belfast to working class Protestant parents, but his family moved when he was 9 to England to escape the Troubles, the 30-year period of violence and semi-civil war that engulfed Ireland from the 1960s to the 1990s. Since that point, Branagh has often returned to Belfast, and still considers the city his original home. He was made a Freeman of the city in Jan. 2018. The story of Belfast looks to capture many of these points, including the wide-eyed innocence of a young boy who loves his home, counterpointed against a mother and father facing a difficult decision in order to keep their family safe.
Belfast introduces child actor Jude Hill as POV character Buddy, with parents played by Jamie Dornan and Caitríona Balfe, and grandparents played by Dame Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds. The trailer has an oddly upbeat tone, set to Love Affair’s “Everlasting Love”—in fact, Dornan almost looks to be reenacting the video for the song at one point—which makes us wonder whether the studio is trying to project a warmer tone for the film than the Troubles-infused story would otherwise project.
Branagh is one of Hollywood’s most eclectic directors, returning now to a personal project after years of bouncing around between Hollywood blockbusters in a variety of styles, such as Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile, Thor and Disney’s Cinderella. Hopefully, his personal attachment to this project yields enchanting results.