This is a beautiful little memory. It is a collection of moments that made up this boys childhood. It has some gorgeous and conspicuous cinematography that showcases a deeply compelling time and place. I loved it.
Shot in lovely black and white, the film follows a family that is living during a very rough time in Ireland known colloquially as “the troubles.” It was a time of social turmoil and conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted from the late 60’s through the late 90’s. It was a time of political violence based on years of social and political issues that bubbled over and resulted in blood in the streets.
The movie doesn’t focus on the reasons or the machinations of the conflict. It follows Buddy, played by the adorable newcomer Jude Hill, he is a nine year old boy just trying to live his life while his father, played by Jamie Dornan, is off working for long stretches, and his Ma, Played by Caitriona Balfe, is left at home trying to care for two young boys in the midst of violence and chaos.
The film was written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, and it is somewhat autobiographical. He grew up in Ireland during the chaos and his family history mirrors the trajectory of the characters. He has called it his most personal film and that really comes through in every frame. The movie is shot from a boys perspective and feels like a memory.
The movie is shot in black and white with some absolutely gorgeously composed shots that utilize the frame is a really unique way. He uses deep focus and steady long shots to give the viewer the opportunity to explore the frame with their eyes. It is a really beautifully shot movie. I would love to watch it again just to get to spend some more time in these images. Some of the shots are a little bit showy. Do we really need the extreme Dutch angle and the stark contrast to get the point across? No, but I’ll give it a pass.
The movie stumbles for me at the climax. It feels like a Hollywood climax that doesn’t entirely fit with the grounded and realistic tone of the rest of the movie. It pulled me out just when the movie needed me to buy in fully.
That said the movie is full of wonderful little moments. Buddy asks his Grandpa, played by Ciaran Hinds, for advice on asking a cute girl out. Grandpa gets as involved in the romance as Buddy is. It’s nice and sweet and feels true. When Grandma, played by the incomparable Judy Dench, takes Buddy to the movies is a joy. The final moments of the movie pack such a subtle and emotional punch that it brought me to tears.
Is it perfect? No. Did it work its magic on me? Completely. I loved it flaws and all. I highly recommend it if you can find it in a theater. I recommend it if you can find it online. It’s a wonderful little movie. It’s my cup of tea. A