Was Branaugh’s Belfast a True Story Worth Watching?

Art Direction
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Was Branaugh’s Belfast a True Story Worth Watching? I snuck into a theater with my wife the other night to make certain we got a chance to see Belfast before it left the theater for good. But the question I had, walking out of the theater was… “Did that actually happen??” We’ll investigate, talk about it, and see what conclusions we can come to. But also, another important question on the table is… is Belfast worth watching? Well, the Oscar community apparently thought so. They threw 6 nominations at Branaugh and the film. I also enjoyed it… but I have to say, it wasn’t what I expected. It was a different kind of interesting. I had expected a story of the IRA, chaos, and grittiness that just wasn’t there. But when I stood back, and took in this other thing, I saw it as a really fun and intriguing story as well.

Quick Belfast Overview

So what is Belfast about? It tells the story of Kenneth Branaugh’s childhood in Belfast. His family, Protestants, were caught in the midst of the Troubles there in Belfast. The conflict started by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, in their belief that they were discriminated again by the Protestant government. After the protests started, the government worked hard to squelch the protests via police brutality and violence of their own… which then bounced the country into the August 1969 riots. And from there, the British military was deployed to try and tamp down the violence. And in the middle of this chaos, “peace walls” were erected, in order to separate the two communities, the Catholics and the Protestants. Among the walled off communities, was Branaugh’s family’s home as they tried to daily make ends meet, and just go through the trouble of surviving in this wild new world.

At the time, unemployment spiked extraordinarily high in Ireland. Families had to do what they could in order to find jobs – and Branaugh’s father traveled regularly to Reading to do joining work. They owed quite a large sum in back taxes, and they had to do what they could to get out from under that debt. But, more pressingly, was the push from other Protestants to join in the struggle against the Catholics. And the question that comes, at the end of the movie is simple enough… should they stay where their family was, where their friends were, where their community was? Or should they look for new opportunities elsewhere? And ultimately, when their family was offered a job, and a home, and a new start, they jumped at the chance.

Was Branaugh's Belfast a True Story Worth Watching? 1st was it accurate retelling? Secondly, is it worth watching? Let's find out together!

Was Belfast an Accurate Retelling?

Branaugh has stated publicly that Belfast was sort of a story that had been building in his life for over 50 years. He had a very insular life protecting him there in Belfast, but at the end of the day, Buddy was a fictionalized amalgamation of his life and history. Branaugh had even gone so far as to say that Buddy was even a toned down version of the history of his own life. When the crowd exploded through his neighborhood, looking to destroy and demolish anything they could, he was completely unhinged after that.

After Branaugh’s parents got the offer for a job and accommodations for their family, and they decided to leave Ireland, he has admitted that his family was fleeing the unrest in the country. But it wasn’t the greatest move for them all. Ken and his brother were horribly bullied after their move… why? The movie discussed this point, they were ridiculed for accents. (I have to admit, when I moved to England, I had dreams and hopes of having a British roommate and having that glorious accent stick. But I ended up with an Irish roommate and I literally couldn’t understand him… at all. I’m not kidding. Not even a little bit. He would have to slow way, way, down, and shutdown every single colloquialism, and then? I caught maybe 50%. Here, listen to this Irish Shepherd being interviewed about his stolen sheep. This is a legit Irish accent:

Wait, we are still locked in paren land… Regardless, it 100% makes sense that they would be seen as really different when they moved to England.) But the politics of the moment made it really bad for them once they moved to England. “The early 70’s were not a good time to be Irish in Reading,” said Branaugh of his move to England. His school mates all seemed to have older brothers in the British Army and every death that was reported seemed to put a spotlight on just how different he was. “It was a defining moment in my life and it became clear to me, that that was the last point at which I happily knew who I was. Since then it feels as though a series of masks and disguises have been worn.” Branaugh acknowledges its lasting impact. “I think it always has [had an impact] and I think what it has [done] is made me very wary. The world can turn upside down in a heartbeat and I think that has had an influence on my being a more guarded individual than I would otherwise have been.”

Personal Thoughts on Belfast

After first walking out of the theater, I was really down on this movie. Sure, it was beautifully acted, set, and cast… but it seemed like it was this happy-go-lucky version of The Troubles, and not even a very realistic version to boot. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized, that this movie was a child’s retelling of his own childhood. It’s a Branaugh telling us a story of his really unrealistic memories. And once I realized that, I began to start giving this movie more slack. But, think about it, no one dies. And the Protestant pressuring Branaugh’s father? He get’s paddy-wagoned off to the police station as they are heading out the door to Reading? I mean, pardon me while I go find a spoon to gag on. That is puke-tastic writing right there. Even the sets, hell, the barbed-wire! was just all kinds of rosiness and happiness. Just the worst. But knowing that all of this rosiness is coming from the brain of an primary school student? That changes everything. I was able to start giving the movie more and more slack once I realized that that was what was effecting the directing, the sets, and the story over all. So, yeah, I enjoyed it, it was good. But it took me the better part of a week to come to that realization. So, take that for what’s worth will ya? Great, thanks.

Edited by: CY