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  • Writer's pictureJames McCleary

Belfast // Film Review

Jojo Rabbit goes North, for no reason.

Belfast tests the limit of ‘eyes of a child’ period dramas.

Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical drama would ironically work far better without his self-insert younger self as its POV hero. Though adequately charming, Branagh relies too much on Buddy’s (Jude Hill) naive perspective to condense and simplify (or dare I say, Americanise) the world of the pre-Troubles North. The rebels are one-note, the history is rote and consequently the climactic riot showdown plays as terribly naff.

The issue does unfortunately lie with Buddy himself. The various threads of his life during his stint in Belfast are largely disconnected and underdeveloped. The most forced of these is his crush on a girl in his class, named Catherine (Olive Tennant), who is revealed late in the game to be a Catholic. This is not a conflict, simply a way for his father (Jamie Dornan) to vocalise how different and accepting he is in contrast with the Protestants around him.

"The film lacks consequences, but more than that it lacks challenge."

Every storyline plays out this way; none of the characters in Buddy's life is ambiguous. The young boy may ostensibly live in a war zone, but every corner of his life proves consistently to be a positive influence. The film lacks consequences, but more than that it lacks challenge. It's undeniably adorable, but for a film that offers to bring a lesser-known chapter of history to an international community, the people of Belfast deserved something with more of a bite.

Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan give outstanding performances as young Buddy’s parents, but the film they try to make is too often buried in the background of their fictional son's subpar, ‘cutesy’ coming of age drama. I have my misgivings with Jojo Rabbit, but at least Taika Waititi took care to ensure his child star was the heart of the piece.


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