Jude Hill stars as "Buddy" in BELFAST. ROB YOUNGSON / FOCUS FEATURES
One of the standout achievements and fan favorites at this year’s Telluride Film Festival is Kenneth Branagh‘s Belfast, an autobiographical film about Branagh’s childhood in Northern Ireland as the Troubles quite literally exploded around him. The dramedy had its world premiere here in the Rockies on Thursday and has been screening to huge applause ever since.
Belfast, which Focus will release stateside on Nov. 12, strikes me as one of the few across-the-board Oscar contenders to emerge this year so far. Branagh is personally poised to garner picture, directing and original screenplay noms, and his terrific ensemble cast is on track to become only the 16th ever — and first since 2013’s American Hustle — to land at least one nom in each of the four acting categories: Jamie Dornan, who plays Branagh’s father, for best actor; Caitriona Balfe, who plays Branagh’s mother, for best actress; Ciarin Hinds, who plays Branagh’s grandfather, and/or 10-year-old newcomer Jude Hill, who plays precocious young Branagh (the latter is the true protagonist, but kids often wind up nominated in the supporting race), for best supporting actor; and Judi Dench, who plays Branagh’s grandmother, for best supporting actress.
Then there’s Haris Zambarloukos beautiful black-and-white cinematography; Úna Ní Dhonghaíle‘s film editing; Jim Clay‘s production design; Belfast native Van Morrison for “Down to Joy,” an original song which plays over the opening credits; and the list goes on.
Many have compared Belfast to Roma, another recent monochrome film about its filmmaker’s childhood unfolding against the backdrop of conflict. But Belfast, which runs a brisk 97 minutes, actually reminds me more of John Boorman‘s less remembered 1987 dramedy Hope and Glory, which did quite well in its own right — critically, commercially and in terms of Oscar nominations, landing picture, director, screenplay, cinematography and production design mentions.
Branagh, who is now 60, is one of the more liked and respected people in the business, both as an actor and as a filmmaker. He has thus far accumulated five Oscar noms over the course of his career — each in different categories — spread between four films: 1989’s Henry V, 1992’s Swan Song, 1996’s Hamlet and 2011’s My Week with Marilyn, but he has yet to win one. Perhaps his time has come.