Film review: Song of the Sea

David Gritten ( 16 July 2015 )

Saga film critic David Gritten recommends the animated film Song of the Sea as a satisfying treat for both young and old.



There;s a soulful quality about the hand-drawn Irish animation film Song of the Sea, one that draws heavily on Celtic myths and legends. There’s nothing brash or breathless about it and you'll never mistake it for Hollywood product.

It;s a story about a mother, Bronach, and her young children, a boy called Ben and his little sister Saoirse. Bronach, who disappears after giving birth to her daughter, is no ordinary mother - she's a selkie, half-woman, half seal. So it turns out is Saiorse, who is mute into the bargain - though she turns out to be gifted with magical powers. Their father Conor (voiced by the impressive Brendan Gleeson) is a lighthouse keeper, stricken by the loss of his wife.

The children travel across country (an idealised, magical version of Ireland), where they meet a stone giant, assorted fairies and a witchy owl, among other extraordinary creatures.

The film's tone is gentle, calming and fanciful; the underlying subject matter might be adult and serious, but its execution has enough warmth and wit to make it suitable for children.

It's also beautifully drawn. Directed by Tomm Moore, whose first feature was the award-winning Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea confidently creates its own supernatural world and inhabits it comfortably.

No-one in western countries is creating animation quite like Moore. The nearest comparison is the astonishing output of Japan’s Studio Ghibli, which has brought us such masterpieces as Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo. Song of the Sea is subtle, deeply felt and enchanting work.

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