BELFAST*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
August 15th, 1969 – In Belfast, Ireland, young Buddy (Jude Hill) is playing with the kids in his neighborhood. The day comes to a violent halt when angry Protestant rioters led by Billy Clanton (Colin Morgan) begin terrorizing the area in an effort to drive Catholics out of town. The children flee the streets and run to their homes as the rioters set fire to cars and break store windows, all while the others watch in fear. Buddy runs home to be with his family.
In the aftermath, tensions run high in the neighborhood. The townsfolk attempt to rebuild the heavy damage and set up a barricade to prevent further violence. Buddy’s mother, “Ma” (Catriona Balfe) goes to meet her husband, “Pa” (Jamie Dornan), who works in England and has returned home upon hearing of the rioting. Buddy also lives with his grandparents, “Granny” (Judi Dench) and “Pop” (Ciaran Hinds), as well as his older brother Will (Lewis McAskie). Buddy asks his parents about Catholicism, which Pa describes as being a “religion of hate”, despite him saying he has nothing against Catholics. Buddy later attends a Catholic sermon where the priest spews hatred and claims of damnation against the Protestants.
The people in the neighborhood do what they can to distract from the ongoing tensions, with Buddy watching shows like “Star Trek”, and his parents joining their neighbors dancing in the street. Buddy also hangs out with a neighbor girl named Moira (Lara McDonnell), who tells Buddy she is in a gang. He is later approached by Billy and one of his goons, as they want to speak to Buddy’s father. Pa learns that Billy wants to gather up the other Protestant men in the area to fend off Catholics, but Pa has no interest in joining and threatens Billy if he goes near his family.
At night, Buddy overhears his parents discussing potentially leaving Belfast. Ma acknowledges that the family is suffering from debt, but she is adamant about staying in Belfast, even though Pa is proposing an alternative living situation for the sake of the boys.
At school, Buddy’s teacher arranges the students based on their grades. He develops a crush on a classmate, Catherine (Olive Tennant), who is among the top students. Buddy expresses his feelings to Pop, who gives him encouragement and recounts the way he was when he fell in love with Granny.
Buddy witnesses Billy drag his son toward a man who told him he won’t be giving money to the streets. Billy punches the man in the face in full view of the neighbors, who chastise him for this. Billy then tells Buddy to remind Pa that he will be hearing from Billy.
Pop helps Buddy with his math homework so that he can improve his grades and he can sit next to Catherine. Buddy’s teacher acknowledges his improvement and moves him up, but Catherine ends up being moved to sit behind him. However, she later agrees to work with Buddy on a project about the moon landing.
After school, Moira finds Buddy and brings him to a store to do some shoplifting. They get caught as Buddy unsuccessfully tries to sneak some sweets out, but he and Moira run out, and she tells him not to say anything to anybody about this. The house is later visited by a police officer to inquire about the shoplifting, but Buddy never spills the beans.
Buddy watches as Pa and Ma argue over a letter she received from the taxman, as she has been stressing over letters they have been receiving. Pa takes Buddy to school, but he hangs around as he watches Pa talk to Billy about joining his organization. Pa turns him down again and says he is nothing more than a glorified gangster.
Ma overhears on the radio that Ireland is suffering from a high rate of unemployment. Pa tells her that his employers are offering him a better job and housing deal in England. Ma knows it’s a better option, but she fears that they will be unwelcome there for the way they talk and under the belief that they will be considered deserters.
Around Christmastime, Granny takes Buddy to see a performance of “A Christmas Carol.” He continues to escape into films and books, like “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and the works of Agatha Christie. Ma and Pa spring the news of moving to England on Buddy and Will, but Buddy emotionally insists that he wants to stay in Belfast. His parents decide to postpone their decision until Easter.
Later on, Moira finds Buddy in the streets and leads him into town where people have begun looting. She encourages him to rob something from the stores, and he takes a box of laundry detergent. He goes home and tells Ma what he’s done, and she chases him and forces him and Moira to return what they stole. In the middle of the chaos, Billy takes Buddy and Ma hostage while Pa and Will come upon them. Billy orders Pa to join him one last time or he will kill Buddy and Ma. As Billy attempts to draw his gun, Pa throws a rock at him and disarms him before Buddy and Ma run to him and Will. Billy is arrested by soldiers and vows retaliation against Pa and his family.
The family realizes that Belfast is no longer safe for them. Pop notes that even if Billy is in jail, someone worse than him will come after the family. Ma agrees with moving to England. Pop falls ill and eventually passes away, with several townsfolk paying respects at his funeral. The family later goes to a lounge where Pa sings “Everlasting Love”.
On the day that the family is set to move to England, Buddy takes a moment to stop by Catherine’s house to bid her farewell. He asks Pa if there would ever be a chance between him and Catherine since she is Catholic, and Pa says that it shouldn’t matter what she is, as long as she feels the same way about Buddy. The family bids farewell to Granny before taking the bus out of town. Granny goes back into the house and quietly weeps.
The film is dedicated to “those who stayed, those who left, and those who were lost” in Belfast.
In 1969, Belfast is plagued by The Troubles, the violent conflict between Protestants and Catholics. Young Buddy is at the center of it all, escaping the turmoil through movies, television, books, and spending time with the kids in the neighborhood. His father wants to move the family out of Belfast with the increasing tensions, while his mother wants them to stay where they are. Local gangster Billy Clanton also attempts to recruit Buddy's father to join his gang to fend off Catholics.
After a violent encounter where Billy threatens Buddy and his mother, his father manages to disarm Billy before he is arrested, but the family knows they are no longer safe there and agree to join Pa as he accepts a better job and housing in England. Buddy bids farewell to his grandmother and his crush Catherine before joining his family in moving away.