Start the new year with a look back in Kenneth Branagh’s deeply personal and nostalgic film “Belfast,” which shows the tumult of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland through the eyes of a young boy. It is shot in dreamy black and white. Buddy is an average 9-year-old, whose biggest concern is getting a higher grade in school so he can get moved to sit next to the little girl he likes. He loves to visit his grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds) and looks forward to his Pa coming home from work in England every week because he always brings him a matchbox car.
Then one day, a Protestant mob, led by neighbors well known to Buddy, turns the corner to his familiar block, and the trash can lid he was using as a pretend shield must serve to actually protect him and his mother. That’s the image on the movie poster — a jubilant little fellow leaping through the air, moving between childhood and the scary real world — and that does, indeed, sum up the movie.