There are many different types of fathers.
In Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic memoir Belfast, 2022 SAG nominee (Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture) Jamie Dornan plays Pa, the kind of dad who would do whatever it takes to save his family even if it means leaving his beloved home. He’s smart enough to know that he can’t fight the hate that has been percolating for decades and be certain that his loved ones would survive. He’s savvy enough to pick his battles carefully. He’s fierce when it comes to protecting his sons against those who would teach them prejudice. He adores his wife. He isn’t without sin. He’s paying for his past sins, literally, but he’s doing his best in a time and place where men like him are being threatened if they refuse to turn to terrorism.
Belfast is set in 1969 when life in the titular locale becomes a nightmare for the working-class families that keep the city alive. Branagh keeps focus on one 9-year-old boy,Buddy (a fine Jude Hill), and his folks (the magnificent Caitríona Balfe and Dornan) and grandparents (Ciarán Hinds and Dame Judi Dench, just amazing).
The film manages to be a tribute to the medium, to the city, and oddly, to the turbulent time.
Dornan, who is doing some of the best work of his career recently, is a quiet force here, giving us just tiny glimpses of the volatility that hides behind his mollifying presence. What he does with a simple glance or reaction truly impresses. In a key moment near the film’s end, he receives tragic news, and the camera barely gives his face time to react. Yet, everything we need to know rests in that reaction.
The actor, who made his film debut in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in 2006, has come a long way from the Fifty Shades Trilogy. The RTÉ/BBC miniseries The Fall proved that he was an acting force to be reckoned with. Wild Mountain Thyme and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar showed off his hilarious comic gifts. Belfast secures his place as one of our most gifted dramatic actors.
Awards Daily had the pleasure of a recent Zoom chat with Dornan.