I was a little nervous when I took my seat to watch Belfast, Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical film about the life of a working-class family in late sixties Belfast. It was a time when the Troubles really exploded on the streets, and I was dreading being slapped about the face by the grim senselessness of sectarianism.
But despite the nightmarish backdrop, there’s something incredibly warm and generous about the film. Set to a Van Morrison soundtrack (with a little help from Love Affair’s Everlasting Love) and shot in radiant black and white, the tender and funny script has a simple question at its heart – leave for a brighter future ‘across the water’ or stay for kith and kin and all that’s familiar. It was a choice faced by generations of Irish people – including our own.
The sparkling cast really deliver – anything with Judi Dench gets my vote – and despite the eye candy that is Jamie Dornan, the stand-out performance has to be from Jude Hill as Buddy, the young boy around whom the story revolves.
Do they stay or do they go? Here’s a clue. Sir Kenneth Branagh is now one of the UK’s foremost actors and directors.
We’ve put Amazon Prime on trial. The retail juggernaut offers Prime free for a month. The jury’s out whether we’ll carry on once the trial is over. Not because it’s rubbish. It isn’t. But because Amazon has got too big for its boots. Just saying.
The trial did give us the chance to check out Prime Video and a couple of movies that took our fancy – ‘Dating Amber’ and ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’. We’d not heard of the former but we’d seen the stage version of the latter beamed from the West End before the pandemic turned off the glitter ball.
Set in Ireland during the mid-90s, ‘Dating Amber’ tells the story of Eddie and Amber, two gay teens who decide to fake a romance to stop the kids at school from banging on about their sexuality. It’s a funny, sweet and touching coming out tale, and perfect for warming a cool autumnal evening.
The musical ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ was a surprise West End hit, inspired by the 2011 BBC documentary ‘Jamie: Drag Queen at 16’. The show follows the eponymous teenager as he beats the bullies and the bigots to slip on the high heels, sequined frock and big hair as a wannabe drag queen.
The show’s back on in the West End now and Prime recently premiered the film version. We liked the stage show but we loved the movie – gutsy, exuberant and courageous with a sparkling cast, including Max Harwood as Jamie.
And what do these two films have in common (apart from the bleedin’ obvious)? None other than fabulous Irish actress, writer and comedian Sharon Horgan who plays Eddie’s doting mother and Jamie’s tight-arsed teacher. Sharon Horgan’s all over our screens right now, making career hay while the TV sun shines. And who came blame her?
Finally, the United Kingdom Parliament at Westminster intends to legislate on two important issues affecting Northern Ireland – marriage equality and abortion – to ensure fairness and equity for everyone. And about but time too. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK which does not recognise same-sex marriage and it’s also where the law on terminations is the most repressive. Generally, such social issues are a matter for the devolved legislatures in each of the four countries of the UK, but tribal bickering and pig-headed intransigence have meant that the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont hasn’t sat for over two years, depriving Northern Ireland of a functioning government. As a result, these and many other key issues have been stuck in limbo. No doubt, though, the members are still drawing their salaries.
Despite overwhelming evidence of popular support for marriage equality and abortion reform, the joyless old dinosaurs of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are implacably opposed to both on puritanical moral grounds but, unless the Stormont Assembly reconvenes by the 21st October (like that’s gonna happen), the Westminster Parliament will likely legislate. While some of the more reactionary fire and brimstone elements of the DUP will be foaming at the mouth, I suspect many others will just be relieved, with a handy ‘wasn’t me, guv’ alibi to keep the faith.
A few months back, my old girl turned ninety and we threw her a bit of a do. Family and friends pitched up to make a fuss and shower her with gifts of cards, cash, flowers and scratchcards – she’s always liked a flutter. Sadly, she only won a tenner. Just as the party was drawing to a close, an old friend – or rather an old flame – of mine videoed us smooching on the dance floor. I thought I’d lost the footage but have just found it on my smarty pants phone. Mother looked suitably regal in the girly crown I picked up from the Pound Shop. I see my bald patch is getting bigger.
One lesbian is murdered by a cowardly nationalist sniper while another becomes the Democratic Unionist Party’s first ever openly gay councillor. Journalist and tireless LGBT campaigner, Lyra McKee, was shot dead during rioting in Derry/Londonderry. The response was universal revulsion from both sides of the political divide in Northern Ireland. Alison Bennington was elected to Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council as a member of the shamelessly anti-gay DUP. Her election met with horror by some party bigots. Could it be that these two events – just weeks apart – will bring real change? God, I really hope so.