Editor’s note: Deadline’s Read the Script series debuts and celebrates the movie scripts that will be factors in this year’s movie award race.
Kenneth Branagh has told the most epic stories of all between Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and Marvel. For his last, Belfast, Branagh chose a more intimate and personal one.
Based on his own childhood in Northern Ireland in the 1960s, Branagh wrote and directed Belfast. Nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill) overhears snippets of the troubles in Ireland. He witnesses some of the violence on the streets, but he’s more concerned about playing with his friends and why his father (Jamie Dornan) has been away so often.
Buddy watches a lot of movies and TV, the arts that would become Branagh’s forte. He sees his father as a silver screen hero and his mother (Caitriona Balfe) as his safe space. His grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds) also live in Belfast and are a constant in his life. Moreover, he is also a boy who is looking for love.
Branagh said his family got caught up in The Troubles and remembered witnessing a riot in the streets the way he described Buddy watching it. He wrote the film while self-isolating during the Covid-19 pandemic, fictionalizing himself as Buddy with the perspective of an adult 50 years later. Belfast was able to film on location in Northern Ireland and England under Covid safety protocols.
Branagh loaded the film with music by Van Morrison – eight catalog hits and one original. The film culminates with Dornan and Balfe dancing to “Everlasting Love”, performed by Love Affair.
Belfast premiered at the Telluride Film Festival before playing Toronto, BFI London and other festivals. It opened on November 12 in the United States. Since then, Branagh’s screenplay has won the Golden Globe among several Globes and Critics Choice Award nominations, while SAG nominated the ensemble cast and selected Balfe’s performance for a nomination.
Click below to read Branagh’s script.