(L to R) Caitriona Balfe, Jamie Dornan, Judi Dench, Jude Hill, and Lewis McAskie. Credit : Rob Youngson / Focus Features

I legitimately thought the first several minutes of writer-director Kenneth Branagh’s “most personal film” were a commercial for tourism in Ireland. Shot in color using drones and playing alongside a tune by Van Morrison (whose songs populate the film’s soundtrack overall), this cheesy preamble sets the tone for what’s to follow, a feel-good sojourn into Sir Branagh’s humble past. But, à la Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, the rest of the film is in atmospheric black-and-white. This semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age chronicle centers on young Buddy (Jude Hill) and his family in Northern Ireland’s capital city. His father (Jamie Dornan) is a joiner, often away for work, while his mother (Caitríona Balfe) stays home with Buddy and his older brother; the paternal grandparents (Judi Dench and Ciarán Hinds) live nearby and frequently pop in. This takes place in the late 60s, so it follows that the prevailing conflict is the Troubles, the decades-long civil war that’s simplified here as having been waged between the region’s Protestant and Catholic residents. Buddy and his family, all Protestants, are caught in the crosshairs; there’s violence in the streets, and local militants are dissatisfied with his father’s reluctance to participate in the discord. It isn’t all doom and gloom, though—none of it’s doom and gloom, really, with Branagh injecting good-natured humor and cloying sentimentality at every turn. Much of the filmmaking is superfluous at best; cameras randomly peer up behind furniture, and it’s possible more drones were used in this film than during Obama’s presidency. It’s amiable, even enjoyable at times, but that’s about it. PG-13, 97 min.

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