Political themes are inherently unavoidable for any film emerging from Northern Ireland’s blossoming production line but writer and director Paul Kennedy manages to steer Made In Belfast away from any obvious pitfalls. With a changing, modern city as the backdrop this is a tale of forgiveness and redemption that flirts with sentimentality without ever becoming too saccharine.
With a changing, modern city as the backdrop this is a tale of forgiveness and redemption that flirts with sentimentality without ever becoming too saccharine.
Jack (Ciaran McMenamin) is a successful writer living hermit-like in Paris. On the day his new book is launched he receives a call from his estranged brother Petesy (Shaun Blaney) who tells him their father is hours from death. Much to the chagrin of his agent Jack leaves immediately and travels home to Belfast without any real thought as to how much history is waiting for him there. Following the death of his father Jack begins to reconnect with friends he had lost when he left some 8 years prior with the reasons for that dramatic and speedy departure slowly emerging. With many wounds still very raw it remains to be seen how much Jack’s life and that of those around him have really changed.
With a style that conveys sincerity and naturality Kennedy directs his cast with clearly evident ease and comfort. Nothing that appears in the story ever seems forced or staged, despite the odd political line of dialogue, and despite the lack of real back-story you become instantly familiar with these characters. There is a pleasant simplicity to their world and knowledge of their lives that gives the feeling that you’ve somehow already met before and it’s easy to empathise with Jack as he attempts to rebuild lost relationships with old friends.
The direct contrast to this, and what keeps the film honest, is the poignancy of the history the two brothers had with their father. While seeking forgiveness for past wrongs from his friends Jack is unable to offer the same to his dead father and while exorcising many of his demons he cannot cleanse this part of his soul. This theme of some actions being unforgiveable and yet the futility of bearing a grudge is to the forefront, but cleverly Kennedy never tells his audience what to think, allowing them to make up their own minds while considering long held grievances they may have in their lives. It is a skilfully subtle approach by filmmaker and cast and pays dividends in creating a simple yet extremely likeable film.
The gentle pacing also allows for enjoyable realism to come through without the need for gritty or forced staging and the witty, dryly delivered comedic script is refreshingly easy on the ear.
The gentle pacing also allows for enjoyable realism to come through without the need for gritty or forced staging and the witty, dryly delivered comedic script is refreshingly easy on the ear. All the performances are superbly and specifically low key in keeping with the general atmosphere and even though the film primarily follows Jack’s journey this is an ensemble piece whose strength is collaborative. With strong support from Shauna Macdonald and Bronagh Gallagher among others there is never a scene in the film when the high standard falls.
Made In Belfast is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining comedy drama that delivers a comfortable sincerity that many films strive for yet fail to achieve. With a deft touch Kennedy, alongside his cast and crew, has created a production that few audiences will fail to be enamoured by.
[notification type=”star”]75/100 ~ GOOD. Made In Belfast is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining comedy drama that delivers a comfortable sincerity that many films strive for yet fail to achieve. [/notification]