Sir Kenneth Branagh has "created a masterpiece” with his latest movie about his childhood in Belfast – one that “might just prove to be his defining work”, according to critics.
Last night, Branagh said it was the silence of lockdown last year that spurred him to write a story .
Arriving at the premiere of the movie, entitled Belfast, at the BFI London Film Festival, he said: "I think lockdown triggered differences in lots of people. It certainly made us very introspective.
"I started being sort of possessed by it as I walked the dog and heard the silence.
"The planes weren't flying and the cars weren't driving, and in the sound of Belfast I've been hearing for about 50 years... as a famous composer once said when asked about how he wrote the music, he said, 'I listened and I wrote down what I heard', so that's what I tried to do.”
Belfast, written and directed by Branagh, is a poignant story of love, laughter and loss in one boy’s childhood, amid the tumult of the late 1960s. Starring Caitríona Balfe, Judi Dench, Jamie Dornan, Ciarán Hinds and 10-year-old newcomer Jude Hill, the movie has been hailed by critics, with Kevin Maher of the Times describing it as “a film of formal beauty, letter-perfect-performances, complex and textured writing”.
He wrote: “Who knew he had it in him? Kenneth Branagh, ostentatious screen actor and frequent director of mainstream studio bilge, has made a masterpiece.”
"Set in Northern Ireland in 1969, and beginning with the August riots that kick-started the Troubles, Belfast is a deeply soulful portrait of a family in peril, culled from Branagh’s Belfast childhood”.
Katie Rosseinsky of the Independent said lockdown had “evidently put Kenneth Branagh in a nostalgic mood”.
"When the pandemic brought the movie industry to a standstill last spring, the actor and director turned to his early years in Northern Ireland for inspiration — the result is his most intimate and deeply felt film to date,” she wrote.
Rosseinsky added that
“ Branagh’s memory piece is unabashedly sentimental but undeniably powerful”.
"It might just prove to be his defining work,” she added.