Song of the Sea
dir Tomm Moore
scr Will Collins
prd Tomm Moore, Paul Young, Claus Toksvig Kjaer
voices David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Jon Kenny, Pat Shortt, Colm O'Snodaigh, Kevin Swierszcz, Liam Hourican, Will Collins, Paul Young
release US 19.Dec.14, UK 10.Jul.15
14/Ireland 1h33
Song of the Sea
Light of my life: Conor, Saoirse and Ben

gleeson flanagan shortt
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Song of the Sea An original story featuring elements from Irish folklore, this animated film combines sophisticated characters with lush imagery to recount a strikingly involving journey. So if the fantastical narrative sometimes leaves the audience baffled, it's still a feast for the eyes that carries a beautifully emotional kick.

On a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, 10-year-old Ben (Rawle) is still upset about the loss of his mother Bronach (Hannigan) six years earlier, as she gave birth to his sister Saoirse (O'Connell). Their lighthouse-keeper father Conor (Gleeson) is emotionally shattered, and Saoirse still hasn't spoken a word. Then Granny (Flanagan) arrives, insisting on taking the kids home with her to Dublin. As Ben decides to return home, he discovers that Saoirse is a selkie like his mother, a seal-child whose song can right an imbalance in the fantastical world of magical creatures.

Filmmaker Moore also used Irish mythology as the basis of his previous film, The Secret of Kells, another animated classic that cleverly blends Studio Ghibli-style storytelling with textures, colours and sounds that could only come from Ireland. On a big screen, the animation is jaw-dropping, filled with artfully magical touches. And the characters are just as unexpected, from muttering fairies to a long-haired eccentric cave-dweller to a creepy owl queen. Every stage of Ben and Saoirse's epic journey is an adventure packed with both visceral thrills and darkly moving intensity.

Intriguingly, this is also an introspective story exploring a young boy's struggle to overcome grief and accept the world as it is, rather than how he wants it to be. It's fairly straightforward, but Ben's voyage to understanding is powerfully moving. He's the kind of stubborn, imaginative kid who's easy to identify with, dressing up as a superhero to try to have some power over his own destiny. By contrast, Conor has given up the fight, while Granny insists on maintaining the status quo, no matter how much damage that might cause.

Over the course of the story, these three characters must come to grips with who Saoirse is and what her life means. Her story feels oddly passive by comparison, but the film as a whole is involving emotionally resonant, largely due to exhilarating imagery that seems to swirl around and engulf us. And since it springs from such an ancient tale, the film has a timeless quality that can't help but touch both children and adults with its deeper themes.

cert pg themes, language, violence 7.May.15

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© 2015 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall