Kenneth Branagh’s cinematic paean to the city of his birth is a bittersweet, but irresistibly charming, child’s-eye view of growing up at a time when the tension and violence of the Troubles were beginning to exert an increasing hold over everyday life in Northern Ireland. Nine-year-old Buddy (a winning turn from newcomer Buddy Hill) is the youngest of a Protestant family living in a mixed community in north Belfast. Ma (Caitriona Balfe) is the family linchpin while Pa (Jamie Dornan) both supports them and pays off debt by working in England, and grandparents Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds occupy a central role in the boy’s life. As sides become entrenched, the family is drawn into situations against its will, forcing difficult decisions. Like Alfonso Cuarón’s similarly luminous Roma (2018), this is a moving love letter to a particular time and place.
Notes by Kevin Coyne