New to stream: Kenneth Branagh's Belfast and Sarah Lancashire in Julia

Belfast: Caitriona Balfe as Ma, Jamie Dornan as Pa, Judi Dench as Granny, Jude Hill as Buddy and Lewis McAskie as Will
Damon Smith

BELFAST (Cert 12, 98 mins, Universal Pictures (UK) Ltd, Comedy/Drama/Romance, available now via Premium Video On Demand rental, available to buy from April 11 on Amazon/BT TV Store/iTunes/Sky Store/TalkTalk TV Store and other download and streaming services, available from April 25 on DVD £19.99/Blu-ray £26.99)

Starring: Jude Hill, Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Ciaran Hinds, Dame Judi Dench, Lewis McAskie, Colin Morgan.

NINE-year-old rapscallion Buddy (Jude Hill) and his family – Pa (Jamie Dornan), Ma (Caitriona Balfe) and older brother Will (Lewis McAskie) – live in a predominantly Protestant district of north Belfast, cheek by jowl with Catholic neighbours.

Granny (Dame Judi Dench) and Pop (Ciaran Hinds) live a few streets away.

Billy Clanton (Colin Morgan) and his comrades target Catholic houses in Buddy's neighbourhood, claiming they are "lookin' to cleanse the community a wee bit".

Hostilities result in family members going through barricade checkpoints and local men patrolling night-time streets with torches.

For Pa, it is an unthinkable opportunity to transplant the clan to Australia or Canada: "An escape route."

Distinguished by Haris Zambarloukos's monochrome cinematography, Belfast is a wondrous coming-of-age drama drawn from writer-director Sir Kenneth Branagh's vast well of childhood experiences in 1960s Belfast.

A terrific ensemble cast led by the exuberant Hill papers over slight narrative shortfalls in a rose-tinted, Oscar-winning script drizzled with nostalgia.

Balfe's fearful matriarch is the film's beating heart and she powerfully conveys the emotional turmoil of a family's forcible displacement from their home.

When the prospect of leaving Belfast for good solidifies, Buddy is most troubled about leaving behind his school crush, a girl called Catherine, who repeatedly scores top marks in teacher Miss Lewis's tests of the children's times tables.

The simple mathematics of Branagh's crowd-pleasing film add up to a beautifully crafted Valentine to a city in the grip of devastating change and its resilient and warm-hearted people, who mine humour in adversity.

Rating: 4/5

JULIA (8 episodes, starts streaming from April 12 exclusively on Now, Drama/Romance)

IN 2009, Meryl Streep portrayed celebrated cook Julia Child in Nora Ephron's biographical comedy drama Julie & Julia and garnered an Oscar nomination for her powerhouse lead performance.

Now it is the turn of Sarah Lancashire to embody Child in an eight-part series created by Daniel Goldfarb, which screens on Sky Atlantic and streams exclusively on Now.

Julia charts the rise of Child and her long-running TV series The French Chef in the historical context of feminism and women's rights movements.

Frasier veterans David Hyde Pierce and Bebe Neuwirth star as Julia's husband Paul and her trusty editor Avis DeVoto, who support the reluctant celebrity as public television becomes a social institution and remoulds the nature of celebrity.

The first four episodes are available on demand this week.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access