Public Displays of Emotion at Asheville’s Fine Arts Theatre

I’ve never been a big movie-goer. I reject it as a social engagement–it used to make sense in high school or college when you saw your friends constantly and so could use three hours of silence, but as an adult, when planning outings with friends can be increasingly tricky, I want to spend that time doing an activity where we could actually converse. What I do love though, is a solo movie date. There’s something particularly fun about going to the movies by yourself and leaving the world and your phone for two to three hours. 

I stumbled upon the Belfast trailer a couple of weeks ago and was instantly sold. I’m in for anything Irish. I’ve actually been to Belfast twice and really dig it’s sort of gritty, borderline depressed, but also very fun feel. I like classic songs as movie soundtracks. I find The Troubles fascinating. And I assumed I’d maybe get a drunken Irish ballad, which I did. 

Some light Googling told me the only place Belfast was playing was The Fine Arts Theatre in downtown Asheville, a small, independent three-screen movie house. I bought tickets online to a Friday matinee, and when I arrived was the only guy in the theatre. As the previews started, a few more people trickled in, but I still ended up being the only one under 50 (which makes perfect sense for both the time and the film). 

I really enjoyed Belfast, but it’s the type of film I’d recommend to certain friends, not necessarily scream about to populace at large— I think you need some knowledge of Belfast and The Troubles to properly enjoy it. It’s also a pretty small story. The stakes get high at the end, but it takes a while to get there. The film has a plot but does a lot of meandering, which makes sense since it’s told through the eyes of a child. The youthful point of view and low(ish) stakes remind me of Dazed and Confused, which I also love. Another similarity is the phenomenal soundtrack— I’ve had “Everlasting Love” playing on repeat for weeks now. 

Spoiler alert.

One of the main character’s grandparents dies at the end of Belfast, which isn’t even that much of a spoiler because their death is pretty much telegraphed from the moment you meet them. The film ends with an Irish funeral, which is somber at the graveyard, but the afterparty is a real raucous affair. This is true to life. I know this because I attended my own Irish grandmother’s funeral this July. The mass and cemetery were somber, but the party that happened after was pretty legendary. I like the Irish approach to death. I like that it’s a real celebration of life. That doesn’t, however, mean it’s any less heartbreaking. 

The last shot of Belfast is the main character’s grandmother waving him goodbye as he flees the violence of Belfast, telling him to, “go, get out of here,” in a crotchety but deeply lovely way, and I found myself heartbroken for my own Irish grandmother, the one I grew up with and with whom I maintained a close relationship with up until this past year when her mind left a few months before her body. I never got a crotchety but deeply lovely goodbye, and this last shot of the grandmother watching her family leave for better things sent me into body-shaking sobs. Three different people asked if I was ok while the credits rolled. 

The Fine Arts Theatre was a very cool place to go see a movie. I highly recommend checking it out, except don’t go see a film about dead Irish grandparents if you have any recently deceased Irish grandparents of your own.

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