A tell-all memoir comes home to roost when its author comes home to Belfast.
How It’s New York: This U.S. premiere took place in NYU’s Cantor Film Center.
How It’s Irish: It’s not just “Made in Belfast” but part of the Irish Film New York festival of contemporary Irish cinema.
It’s easy to see why the Northern Irish Bureau co-sponsored “Made in Belfast.” The film suggests Northeners, because of their troubled past, have a particular ability to break down the walls of resentment that divide people, even after death, and build something beautiful from a bombed ruin.
It’s multi-talented director, screenwriter, and cast member Paul Kennedy doesn’t hammer home the point (overlooking one too many utterances of the phrase “move on”).
Nor is “Made in Belfast” political, per se, but a personal history that echoes the political.
After years from estrangement from the friends he mortified with his tell-all memoir, Jack Kelly (Ciarán McMenamin) comes back from Paris to Belfast to bury his father—or rather to metaphorically shove him underground.
However, the plot overtakes the now commercially successful but personally rootless author who surprises himself by closing that chapter and starting a new one.
Along the way, it’s humorous to watch Jack being brought down to Belfast size. This starts with the wonderful taxi driver, my favorite character in the film, played by Stuart Graham, who is underwhelmed by the Louvre, or “Loof,” as he calls it. It continues with a formidable woman, divorced thanks to Jack’s revelations, who punches him and in the next breath says, “I’m sorry about your father.” That character, Jane, played by Tara Lynne O’Neill, who some New York audiences will have seen in last year’s 1st Irish comic play, “Fly Me to the Moon.”
And, then there are the several true friends to tell Jack that his new book is “shite”. Among them is one of Northern Ireland’s veteran actors, Lalor Roddy, as Kevvy.
“It was nominated for The Booker Prizer,” protests Jack. “Did it win?” retorts Kevvy. Jack: “No.” Kevvy: “Well, then.”
The scene where Kennedy as Matty tries to reconcile with his wife, borrowing from Jack, but without his silken tongue ,is also great.
Colin Ash is also winning as Jack’s brother, Terrance, especially when he tries to teach himself French to emulate his successful sibling. It was a nice touch to show his search for a French book through the store’s CCTV—inviting us to see his divergent life path as more likely to be that of a potential shoplifter.
An inattention to detail, elsewhere, occasionally detracted from the film’s credibility. Early on, a taxi driver asks a man with no luggage (Jack ) how were his holidays. And, quite seriously, at the end, Jack’s former fiancee (Shauna Macdonald as Alice) talks of success having gone to his head while they were still together. This seemingly contradicts a friendm Smith (Owen McDonnell) who earlier in the movie characterized Jack’s success as coming with “that first book [the tell-all from which] you lost all your real friends.”
Still, there’s so much to enjoy here, leaving relatively little to overlook—as in real friendship.