“Belfast” (Focus)

Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Jude Hill and Lewis McAskie star in a scene from the movie "Belfast." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Rob Youngson, Focus Features)

By Catholic News Service

Writer-director Kenneth Branagh uses the perspective of a 9-year-old boy (Jude Hill) living in the city of the title to examine the effects of the sectarian strife that swept across Northern Ireland at the very end of the 1960s. As the lad’s father (Jamie Dornan), who journeys back and forth to England for work, resists pressure from the ruthless leader (Colin Morgan) of the local Protestant extremists to join in the violence, his mother (Caitríona Balfe) struggles to keep him and his older brother (Lewis McAskie) safe and morally grounded. Though emigration seems the best option for the family, it would mean separating themselves from the grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds) with whom the youth shares a close emotional bond.

A sensitive exploration of the plight of decent people surrounded by malignant bigotry, this moving drama is also a celebration of romantic love, ranging from the protagonist’s shy affection for a classmate (Olive Tennant) to two examples of enduring marriage. The film’s artistic merit and ethical surefootedness will probably outweigh its occasional verbal defects in the minds of parents judging its acceptability for older teens.

Some stylized violence, a few instances each of profanity and milder swearing, fleeting rough and crude language, at least one crass expression. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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