Song of the Sea
Director: Tomm Moore
Cast Headliners: David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan
Original Release Date: December 10th, 2014 (Certain European Countries)
Seen: February 2015 (special pre-Oscar showcase)
Director Tomm Moore created an fascinating work with his first animated film, 2009’s The Secret of Kells. What made that film stand out is that it was a Irish film through and through, using a Irish voice cast and utilizing a rich celebration of Celtic Irish myths and culture. With Song of the Sea, Moore shifts things up a bit and pulls from some new legends. It turns out even better than the first experience he created.
This two-dimensional animated film picks up, surrealistically , in Ireland’s coast at a light house with a boy named Ben (David Rawle) who lives with his father (Brendan Gleeson, who gives a thoroughly great performance with his usual warming tones) and mother (Lisa Hannigan) as they expect the birth of his sister Saoirse (also Lisa Hannigan). In what is no doubt an excuse to deliver more Celtic lore to the entertainment world, Ben’s mother tells him legends, including the one of the Selkie who has a powerful voice in her song of the sea. Unfortunately, events transpire leaving Ben, Saoirse, and their father alone on that island for years after. They are only visited by seals, and their intense Granny (Fionnula Flanagan).
What awaits is a journey that must be seen firsthand to experience as the film packs an immense sense of wonder and discovery. This owes incredible attribution to its artistic visuals. Moore has once again brought a painting to life. At times surreal, at times calming, at times brooding the animated visuals and atmosphere of the film is enrapturing. It truly feels like a ancient Celtic piece brought to movement, and it works even better here than in Kells with a new Genndy Tartakovsky-esque element to the animations. In every single moment of the film, it is a luscious cake for the eyes and heart with its comfort.
The other great aspect is the themes of the story. There’s great writing, and the relationship between the siblings is especially unique because Saoirse cannot speak even at her age of 6. Even with Ben being the main speaking character, it is never dull and the non-verbal direction is brilliant. Between her communication and cuteness, the influence of Studio Ghibli is even more evident here than in Kells.
Moore manages to take those influences and create something new. While the story is predictable, its slight slow moments never take away from the charm of this film. This is living art in a charming fable, and is definitely worth checking out for its putting ancient Irish culture in a modern society context for a delightful tale. 8.65 out of 10