A child’s-eye love letter to a city

We all have treasured (or regretful) childhood memories; formative instances and lessons learned that stay with us throughout our lives. And occasionally we’re lucky enough to have a person with the skill set of writer/director/actor Kenneth Branagh come along to share his own memories in a spirited, funny and vital account that rings true.

It’s impossible not to be charmed by this semiautobiographical tale of a young boy (Jude Hill, a major source of the film’s charm) growing up in Northern Ireland during the tumultuous and confusing late 1960s. Caitriona Balfe and Jamie Dornan are his ma and pa, while Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds are his granny and pop.

Many fine films have been made about surviving the “Troubles.” But this one’s strengths lie in finding life’s little joys despite them. It’s Branagh’s most personal film and the best of his eclectic career. And audiences can be grateful that he packs it all into less than 100 minutes. Seven Oscar noms. (98 min)