At the start of Belfast , set in that Northern Irish city in 1969 and filmed mostly in luminous black and white, we see a boy playing in the street, wielding a wooden sword and metal dustbin lid. All is innocent fun and games; the street’s cheek by jowl terraced houses look almost warm and welcoming. The season is clearly summer, no dark clouds either literally or metaphorically seem to be on the horizon.  

Kenneth Branagh

Within a few minutes the boy, named Buddy (Jude Hill), his friends and their close-knit neighbours will have witnessed a terrifying attack from fellow citizens invading their streets wielding Molotov cocktails and hand-held missiles. We see that dustbin lid again, only this time held aloft by Buddy’s scared-witless mother ( Outlander star Caitríona Balfe) as she searches for her endangered son, bricks and stones raining down around her.  

This corner of town is largely Protestant – as is Buddy’s family – with a small contingent...