Moviola in May

THE Moviola calendar for May is dominated by two Oscar-nominated films, both thoroughly deserving of the acclaim – Kenneth Branagh’s semi-autobiographical Belfast and Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake of West Side Story.

Belfast, set in the city of Branagh’s birth at the start of the Troubles, is a gentle but profoundly moving black-and-white film about an ordinary family. The central character is energetic, ebullient nine-year-old Buddy, the youngest child of a working class couple, Ma, played by Outlander star, Caitriona Balfe and Pa, Jamie Dornan, The Fall’s charismatic serial killer and the leading man in the forgettable Fifty Shades films. Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds play Buddy’s paternal grandparents.

Pa is working in England, and wants the family to move there – or even to Australia or Canada. Ma wants to stay in Belfast, but the increasing tension between the majority Protestants and few Catholic families in their part of the city is increasing the pressure on this hard-working, strong woman.

The story is seen through Buddy’s innocent eyes, but inevitably overlaid with our hindsight of the appalling sectarian violence that was to come. It is a beautiful film, with subtle performances from all five leads – Jude Hill, who plays Buddy, is surely a star of the future.

Belfast is being shown during May at Crowcombe, Highcliffe, Kingston St Mary, Calne, Charlton Marshall, Kilmington (Devon), Chard (Guildhall), Nunney, Stogumber, Hinton St George, Hythe, Whitchurch, Frogham, Edington (near Bridgwater), Marnhull, Stockbridge (town hall), East Stour, Bishopstone (near Salisbury), South Petherton and Watchet.

For dates see the Arts Diary, and for more details on the venues and the film, visit www.moviola.org

The new version of West Side Story has fabulous choreography, a powerful new screenplay by Tony Kushner and great performances, particularly from Oscar-winning Ariana DeBose as Anita. It has all the energy of the original, with heightened racial tension between the angry poor white gang members and the fiercely proud Puerto Ricans. The music, of course, is wonderful.

West Side Story (2021) is being shown at Yetminster (Jubilee Hall), Kingsbury Episcopi, Codford St Peter (Woolstore Theatre), Steeple Ashton, Beaminster (Public Hall), Shrewton, Hawkchurch, Colerne, Membury (Devon), Ringwood (Greyfriars), Bransgore, Nether Wallop, Stogursey, Hanging Langford, Motcombe, Great Bedwyn, Downton, Halstock, Tatworth, West Camel and Norton St Philip.

Another, but less garlanded, recent Branagh film, Death On the Nile, has three screenings, at Watchet, Wookey Hole and Winterslow. The critics have been hard on it, but this latest Branagh-Poirot outing is glamorous, with exotic Egyptian settings and an A-list cast too long to list here, but don’t miss French and Saunders in a new and unexpected pairing.

The other May films are Mothering Sunday, at Crowcombe and the Oscar-winning Will Smith film, King Richard, about the superstar Williams sisters’ father, at Warminster, Civic Centre.

Pictured: Buddy with Pa and Grandad in a scene from Belfast; a spectacular dance scene from West Side Story (2021).