Song of the Sea (2014) Review
Director(s): Tom Moore
Writer(s): Will Collins
Cast: David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O’Connell, Jon Kenny, Pat Shortt, Colm Ó Snodaigh, Liam Hourican, Kevin Swierszcz
Plot: On her sixth birthday, Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) is drawn towards the shell flute that is owned by her brother, Ben (David Rawle), which was passed down by their mother, Bronagh (Lisa Hannigan). This sets in motion events that would put both siblings on a mystical path in finding out the truth behind their mother’s mysterious past.
Review: Eventually going on to nab an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards – which in retrospect, seems to have been ill-won by Big Hero 6 – and rooted in the Celtic folklore of the selkie, Song of the Sea, from the director and studio behind The Secret of Kells (2009), is a beautiful traditionally animated movie that defies words with how it proves to be leaps and bounds ahead of its current peers in storytelling and animation. Every meticulously crafted frame is an intricate story in and of itself, where even if the eyes were to stray momentarily, the background would prove to be just as interesting as the characters held in the forefront.
Most would have heard of some version of the selkie myth; the most prominent being the tale of a man that locks the ‘skin’ of a woman he meets at sea in a chest and thus forcing her to be his human wife, and as years pass, her longing to return to the sea grows wild. Rather than focusing on either the man or the woman, Tom Moore’s Song of the Sea looks towards the offspring from the union between man and selkie, as he weaves the deeply entrenched Gaelic lore with the innocence of children and the familial bond that stems from such a union into an evocative, emotionally moving tale.
Though Brendan Gleeson lends his striking yet voice in a small capacity to the character of Conor, the father of Ben and Saoirse, it is the latter two who steal the show in their own unique ways. Ben’s rambunctious demeanour is offset by his sister’s muffled moans and grunts, as he is slowly forced into being a responsible brother to his seemingly mute and helpless sister for whom he has shunned after her birth drew a wedge in the family. Layered, nuanced characters are largely a rarity in animated movies that aren’t attached to large franchises, but Song of the Sea pulls off the characterization of its characters in large, masterful strokes of ingenuity and brilliance in its animation’s breathtaking colors.