The visuals are jaw-droppingly beautiful, simplistic in design, true to the Celtic roots of the story, and should almost be listed as a character in and of themselves. Beautiful is a term that I seldom get to use as a cinephile, but beautiful is the only word I can use to describe Song of the Sea. The elegant style owes a debt to Ghibli films, but I'm not a big fan of Hayao Miyasaki outside of his craft and I preferred this more identifiable approach to the fantasy. Granted, side characters are often eccentric for the sake of being eccentric. Or not even with more of it, the balance is so fine.
The singular theme of the film underscores the truth that stories, emotions, animals and nature connect us to our better selves and to each other. She escapes from her grandmother's home to journey to the sea and free fairy creatures trapped in the modern world. The older brother, Ben, resents his younger and mute sister, Saoirse, for their mother having to leave them for good. But this is no bedtime story; these fairy folk have been in our world far too long. Along the way, Ben and Saoirse find themselves engulfed in many of the same fantastical stories their mother always talked about. There is something absolutely enchanting in the way Moore and his animation company Cartoon Saloon are able to use traditional animation to tell such a compelling story. However, selkies cannot make the changes by themselves.
The night their meddling grandmother comes to try and take the children away to the city, young Saoirse is led by an illuminating force to a coat among her absent-mother's belongings and subsequently wanders into the ocean where she is transformed into a seal. I'm quite familiar with the story having spent the last year of my degree writing a short film about it, but Songsubverts the mythological and tells a sequel of sorts. Ben is a small boy who goes on a journey with his sister, Saoirse to reunited her with the last gift their mother granted her before passing, which will give her the ability to sing a song that can save all the creatures from their mother's fairy tales. Finding her human again and washed up along the beach asleep and having come down with a cold , the grandmother sees no alternative other than to 'rescue' the children from such a hostile environment and proceeds to take Ben and Saoirse to Dublin. It is quite pedestrian in its traditions and obviously contrived in its storytelling, one ostensibly accessible for children, but the emotional honesty and depth of the characters make it engaging.
His stories are a whimsical blend of magic and the mundane, and it's all carried so well that you wish it could all be true. When one loses their feelings, they risk turning to stone. Song of the Sea hasn't and won't gross well at the box office by Hollywood standards - which is a true shame, because I can't think of a film from 2014 that more deserves to be seen. Where Miyazaki-san's work is steeped in spiritual fantasy and a love for his home country not really seen since the Romantic movement, Tomm Moore is a bit more grounded in Western storytelling and keeps his myths well interacted with daily life. It's fantastic to see the tools of storytelling so perfectly implemented.
The characters are engaging and the story is both poignant and inspiring, but the real beauty in this film is the swirling palettes of color that captivate the audience with each passing frame. Selkies, magical beings that change from seals to humans, have the power to reverse such changes. While the story is formulaic, sure, it's executed brilliantly and engagingly. And through no fault of her own, Saoirse's voice vanishes as well. The father and devoted lighthouse-keeper voiced by Brendan Gleeson is distraught and empty after the loss of his wife, Saoirse has yet to utter a word and is thought to be mute, and Ben would sooner be in the company of his loyal dog Cu than mind his little sister like he is supposed to.
It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival. Saoirse is a child who is the last of the selkies, women in Irish and Scottish legends who transform from seals into people. Beginning at the end of the tale, the mother Selkie, who has wedded a human fisherman and already had a baby boy with him, is pregnant once more. There's no bombast or leitmotif to be found, but the music is so integral to the plot that you can't imagine the movie without it. Whenever I see a movie like this, it makes me wish that 3D animation was not so dominate in popularity. So well done, it was like a painting coming to life. Though they do have the type of elasticity we haven't seen since the Disney films of the 60s and 70s after they've become more reserved in the 90s.
We later find out that she is part selkie — a magical being that is capable of such transformation. The film won't be big enough to contend for the Oscar win, but with any luck we'll see it on the shortlist and in the top five. From the director of the spectacular, award winning Secret of Kells. At odds between their home by the rough treacherous sea and their fussy Grandma who wants them to live in the city, they're forced away from their distraught father voiced charmingly by Brendan Gleeson and their dog to live with her. This was one of the best animated movies I see in a while. Moore's animations are infused with Celtic designs and an eerie mysticism that seem as if a painting has come to life before your eyes.
In the back of my mind, I was pointing out each and every plot point as it went by, like an eager sightseer out the side of a tour bus. The story of Saoirse and her brother Ben is cut from the classic Hero's Journey so closely that you can practically see Joseph Campbell's fingerprints on the screen. It's a story of love that is infused with rich mythology and folklore. The beautiful, spell binding and intricate animation of this film includes the Northern lights, sunrises and surreal underwater worlds. Director Tomm Moore's followup to his Oscar nominated debut The Secret of Kells certainly has the potential to follow in its footsteps if it can reach enough of an audience. I guess the title kind of gives it away, doesn't it? The Irish are rich with stories and fairy tales of mythical creatures. The score is, similarly, simplistic and heartfelt.
I tried to think of the perfect descriptor for this film, but the best I could come up with is to liken it to the equally beautiful film Pan's Labyrinth if it were a Studio Ghibli film. This movie is from the same studio that brought us The Secret of Kells 2009 , an almost beguilingly charming movie that brought together elements of Druidic myth, passionate Christian faith, history, and Celtic grandeur in a way that I don't think anyone had ever really seen before. This story simply couldn't have been told as well with a different art crew, the dynamic is so tied into the feel and flow of the tale. The theme is overt, bottling up emotions turns you to stone, but the truth in that is powerful. It has dark elements, a timeless and engrossing story, and an aesthetic mastery that will see you through these otherwise barren months of cinema. It has at least a sprightly spirit of adventure. Fortunately, among all the fantastical elements it has a very grounded sense of humour rather than an often irritatingly quirky one that a film like Frozen boasts and it makes it a much easier film to invest in.
Her family is prone to grief and selfishness. On top of this, strangers who already lost their emotions for good, try to make Saoirse lose hope. There's a very delicate storybook quality to the film. When she disappears into the sea after giving birth to a daughter Saoirse 'Seer-Sha' , the story fast-forwards 6 years into the future where we find a broken family. Perhaps mostly due to the simplistic and now refreshing 2D animation style that glitters beautifully with its swirls, but also in the episodic way the story unfolds. With Song of the Sea, we get tales of spirits, selkies, fairies and the like that seems as if they've been immortally captured in a children's storybook and jazzed up with a modern family drama.