This week I went to see the film 'Belfast', written and directed by Kenneth Branagh, which has been nominated for seven Oscars - and well deserved in my opinion!
I found it to be a very affecting film. It's important not to forget the terrifying ordeals experienced by so many people through the Troubles, particularly as communities throughout the world are living through such horrors today.
There was also, though, a powerful sense of community with the bonds of family, friends and neighbours presented with humour and sensitivity. And the artistry of the production, the camera shots, the scene setting, the acting, clothes and music, all made for this to be an uplifting and memorable mix of joy, hope, horror and sadness. What's more the story was told from the perspective of a child, inspired by the nine-year-old Kenneth Branagh. This made it even more poignant and telling as he and his friends sought to make sense of the bewildering and frightening actions of the adults they had grown up trusting.
Another story of childhood was released last week. Justin Webb, the presenter of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme has published a memoir called 'The Gift of a Radio'. In this very entertaining and nostalgic book he nevertheless acknowledges that he didn't have a happy time growing up. Indeed his experiences are at times quite unsettling to read. But again he writes with a sensitivity and humour, and the lesson he has learned, which he shares with the reader, is that we are all multi-faceted and we need to treat each other with kindness, understanding and compassion. He hopes, he says, that we can nurture “our ability to look at ourselves and others without condemnation".
And I was interested to read the latest children's book by the presenter and writer Danny Wallace. Called 'The Luckiest Kid in the World', it explores how commercialism today relies on finding the common denominator, the thing which everyone wants. In pursuing this, though, we all risk losing what is special, unusual or creative, and "no one thinks differently or tries different things or is ever truly excited about anything ever again". And it is through the experiences of Joe Smith, "an average kid", that the reader is reassured that "however ordinary we are, we are each of us so very special".
Thank you for reading!