Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Ciarán Hinds

QuickView: Belfast (2021)

“There is no our side and their side on our street. Well, there didn’t use to be, anyway.”


Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical ode to his youth, set in 1960s Belfast at the start of the Troubles, is is presented from the perspective of nine-year-old Buddy. Opening with sudden sectarian violence, the camera circles the overwhelmed child as we glimpse flashes of the action around him, heightened by the stark monochrome. Some have criticised its surface-level engagement with the Northern Ireland conflict, but that is not intended to be its focus save insofar as it invariably seeps into family life. It is more a coming of age tale as Buddy gets love advice from his grandparents and tries not to be led astray by his cousin. His home is filled with the love even as tensions in the city rise, ramshackle barricades becoming a permanent feature of the street. Branagh draws parallels through cinema, the boys watching specifically selected Westerns like The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (“Has everyone in this country gone kill-crazy?!”) and High Noon (“You’re asking me to wait an hour to find out if I’m going to be a wife or a widow.”), whilst men patrol the street at night with burning torches as if in those same films. Likewise, the only moments of colour come from the arts, providing a beautiful black and white shot of Judi Dench with the warm colour of stage play reflected in her glasses. Filmed between opulent Agatha Christie adaptations with much of the same crew, Belfast is a more intimate and personal project which ⁠— although not particularly subtle in its crowd-pleasing intensions ⁠— is nevertheless well-observed, wonderfully acted and beautifully shot.


QuickView: First Man (2018)

“When you get a different vantage point, it changes your perspective.”

Neil Armstrong

First Man should not be mistaken for a film about the Apollo programme; as its name suggests the biopic is focused solely on the contribution of Neil Armstrong, sidelining everyone else. The claustrophobic nature of spaceflight is realistically presented through tight shots that leave us gazing into Ryan Gosling’s eyes with a regularity that eventually becomes tedious (although some viewers may disagree with this assessment). This is combined with an interesting decision to shoot the moon landing with IMAX cameras. If seen in that format the larger screen is entirely unused outside of that 15 minute sequence. Although impressive, IMAX viewing for this alone is far from essential. Gosling’s portrayal is deliberately understated whilst Claire Foy delivers the film’s strongest emotional performance as Armstrong’s wife. The most surprising aspect is an effective exploration of traditional masculinity and the burden placed on men who are left unable to share their emotional pain, with resulting impact on their families. Ultimately First Man is overlong but satisfying.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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