Lectures For Lifelong Learners!

“Demonic” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.


Oscar nominated writer-director Kenneth Branagh begins his semi-autobiographical movie “Belfast” in an interesting way. We see shots of the Northern Ireland city as it looks today through a montage of static shots done in color. Then on one shot, showing a brick wall with some rough-looking working-class Irishmen painted on it, the camera moves. It hops over the wall, down the street, and into an alley where some children are kicking a ball around. As it does this, the picture goes from color to black and white and we’re transported back to 1969, where we’ll remain for the rest of the movie.

I have seen many of the films Branagh has directed, and I don’t remember his camera calling attention to itself in this way. He’s made some gorgeous looking movies to be sure (his four hour “Hamlet” was a captivating wonder to behold on the big screen in 1996), but I don’t recall his camera being this active. His outside scenes, many of which take place on the street behind the wall (before the wall went up), is full of an impressive array of dolly and crane shots that create a sense of continuous flow to the action.

And action there is, as “Belfast” opens and climaxes with a group of masked rioters destroying property and starting fires on the street. This is especially striking when we first see it. The peaceful tranquility with children playing and people going on about the business of their day is shockingly disrupted by explosions and violence. The sudden attack forces nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) and his brother Will (Lewis McAskie) indoors as their Ma (Caitriona Balfe) desperately looks for them.

The next day, Buddy’s Pa (Jamie Dornan) returns early from his job in London check on the family. With his return we learn more about the cause of the riot. It turns out that Protestants don’t like Catholics living in their neighborhood. Especially interesting since one thing Protestants and Catholics have in common is the turn the other cheek, nonviolent teachings of Christ, but perhaps head rioter Billy Clanton (Colin Morgan) and his Protestant goons were asleep in their pews when the minister made mention of this.

The good-ish news for Pa is that since he and his family are Protestant, they aren’t the direct target of Clanton and his gang. Still, Pa has plenty to be afraid of since Clanton gives him an ultimatum to join with him or face the consequences. Fearing for the safety of his family as well as himself, Pa throws around the idea of moving to far off places like Australia and Canada, before settling on the more reasonable idea of moving to London. This causes family tension, as Buddy doesn’t want to move away from friends and family, and most significantly, causes issues between Ma and Pa. The scenes between Balfe and Dornan are the most dramatic, and very well acted by both.

It’s hard to blame Buddy for wanting to stay. His life is there, it’s all he’s known, and he is very close with his grandparents Pop (Ciarán Hinds) and Granny (Judi Dench). These two characters steal the show, and it’s no big surprise that the actors inhabiting these roles received Supporting Actor Oscar nods. With his father away, Buddy looks especially to Pop for questions on love, life, and how to fake like you know the answers on math tests. He has a great relationship with Granny as well, going to plays and movies together. The sense of familial bonding and love is there, and we obtain a clear understanding of how that would be hard for a nine-year-old to leave behind. Heck, it doesn’t matter if a person is nine or ninety—that type of connection is hard for anyone to let go. Buy it.

More New Releases

“Demonic,” in which a young woman unleashes terrifying demons when supernatural forces at the root of a decades-old rift between mother and daughter are ruthlessly revealed, starring Carly Pope, Nathalie Boltt, and Chris William Martin.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover and author of the novel “Takedown,” which is available on Amazon, iTunes, and more. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.