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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Courage in standing up to religious bigotry and intimidation. Importance of family and being there for one another, even when facing increasing hardships. Intergenerational relationships. Neighbors look out for each other and look beyond people's religion.
Positive Role Models
Buddy is a happy, intelligent, likable young boy who has an innocent outlook on life, despite the troubles plaguing his neighborhood. He sees beyond religion and, like his family, has Protestant and Catholic friends. He is occasionally led astray by his older cousin, who convinces him to steal and loot. Buddy's parents are loving and want the best for their two sons. But they often have different ideas about how to achieve that, leading to some heated arguments. Buddy has a warm relationship with his grandparents, who offer him advice on everything from schoolwork to girls. Other characters, such as Billy Clanton, use the religious divide to extort and create violence.
Main characters are White and are depicted as being Protestant or Catholic. Women are shown to be strong, courageous, principled, often standing up to the men in their lives. Some diversity among supporting cast. A confectionary shop is owned by someone of South Asian descent. Reference to a curry causing someone to have diarrhea, which plays on stereotypes.
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Violence & Scariness
Violent scenes involving rioting and looting, with characters armed with chains and batons. Firebombs thrown, cars set alight and exploded, windows smashed. Barbed wire barricades erected. Soldiers driving tanks enter residential neighborhoods. Characters routinely intimidated with violence -- forced from their homes, ordered to pay money or to join the perpetrators. Parent and child held by a character who has a gun in their back pocket in a stand-off with soldiers. A shot is fired but no one is hit; hostages escape unharmed. Character punches someone in the face. News reports mention people dying as a result of cross-religious fighting. During an argument, a character throws plates at their spouse. After a short stay in hospital with an unspecified illness, an older character dies. They are briefly seen in an open coffin prior to their funeral.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Childhood crushes. Young boy talks extensively about liking a girl in his class. Married couples show each other affection -- dancing and telling each other they love them. While watching a movie at the theater, a character comments on the attractiveness of one of the stars, who is dressed in revealing clothing.
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One use of "f--kers." Other language includes "bloody," "hell," "shite," "a--hole," "arse," "buggers," "heck," and "shut up." Also "for God's sake" and "Christ" used as exclamations. A character tells another, "you're mental."
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Products & Purchases
Reference to brands of candy and confectionary, as well as Guinness. Christmas presents are exchanged. Multiple conversations about earning more money, but in context of necessity rather than greed. A couple of references to gambling.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Occasional drinking at social events. In one scene, a character is seen singing in the street while holding a glass, the implication being that they may have had too much to drink.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Belfast is writer-director Kenneth Branagh's captivating drama about a young boy growing up in the 1960s during the religious conflict in Northern Ireland (a time commonly referred to as "The Troubles"). Though there are moments of violence as Protestants and Catholics clash, the movie is also warm and tender, since much of it is seen through the eyes of innocent schoolboy Buddy (Jude Hill). Catholics are bullied out of their homes by intimidation and violence. Firebombs are thrown, cars are set alight, and windows are smashed. A mother and son are briefly held at gunpoint. Despite the danger, there's plenty of humor, particularly involving scenes with Buddy and his grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds). But there's also sadness, with a beloved character dying from an unspecified illness, and Buddy's parents (Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe) having to decide whether to leave their home to start another life. Strong language is frequent but, apart from one use of "f----rs," doesn't get stronger than "a--hole" and "shite." Although the movie doesn't dive into the political and religious intricacies of Northern Ireland, it does a great job of highlighting the seriousness of the situation while remaining accessible to younger viewers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Seen through the eyes of a young boy, this drama -- set in the late 1960s during the religious conflict in Northern Ireland -- manages to maintain a degree of innocence. There's a scene in Belfast, where Buddy -- played with such aplomb by Hill that it's difficult to believe this is his debut feature film role -- asks about the differences between Protestants and Catholics. In Buddy's mind, it seems crazy that his neighbors are being forced from their homes, simply for following another faith. Indeed, he's far more concerned with gaining the attention of a girl in his class. Of course, for the older characters, life's not so simple. Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe are excellent as Buddy's parents, who are left with the unenviable decision of whether to leave their home or stay and risk the safety of their two sons. And the scenes with Buddy's grandparents -- played by Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds -- pack the film's most emotional and amusing moments.
Written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film has been lovingly crafted. Branagh grew up in Belfast, and it's not a stretch to imagine that he channeled much of his own childhood experiences into Buddy. This also gives the film a degree of authenticity, even if the political and religious complexities of "The Troubles" are left relatively untouched. This is, after all -- and unlike how the film is shot -- far from a black-and-white situation. Instead, Branagh focuses on the daily details of his characters' lives: the unpaid tax bill, the family trips to the movies. They all serve as a reminder that these were ordinary people living through extraordinary times, of which Branagh has managed to retell in a superb piece of filmmaking.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.