The story of the last Seal Child’s journey home. After their mother’s disappearance, Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with Granny in the city. When they resolve to return to their home by the sea, their journey becomes a race against time as they are drawn into a world Ben knows only from his mother’s folktales. But this is no bedtime story; these fairy folk have been in our world far too long. It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival.
|Release Date||:||September 6, 2014|
|Genres||:||Family, Animation, Fantasy|
|Production Company||:||Irish Film Board, Digital Graphics, Big Farm, Cartoon Saloon, Super Productions, Magellan Films, Mélusine Productions, Noerlum Studios, Studio 352|
|Production Countries||:||Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg|
|Director||:||Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey|
|Writers||:||Will Collins, Tomm Moore|
|Casts||:||Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Pat Shortt, Jon Kenny, Lisa Hannigan, Lucy O'Connell, Colm Ó'Snodaigh, Liam Hourican, Kevin Swierszcz, Will Collins, Paul Young|
|Plot Keywords||:||fairy tale, lighthouse, folk music, lighthouse keeper , irish, swimming, dog, seal, irishman, folklore, irish music, underwater cave|
Our story begins with a pregnant mother giving her first-born son Ben a young boy a conch shell so that he can hear the sea and be reminded of the mystical Irish folktales she has shared with him. 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. 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.
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. We later find out that she is part selkie a magical being that is capable of such transformation. 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.
Disheartened by their new home, the children quickly escape on a journey to find their way back to their father and the lighthouse. Along the way, Ben and Saoirse find themselves engulfed in many of the same fantastical stories their mother always talked about. Additionally Saoirse discovers her ability to tune into the spirit realm and nature through her gifts as a selkie and with the help Ben's conch shell.
It's a story of love that is infused with rich mythology and folklore. 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. Director/writer Tomm Moore has created a wondrous and vibrant style that immediately calls to mind the works of Hayao Miyazaki that Moore has cited as his personal inspiration.
Whereas Miyazaki draws upon the wealth of his Japanese heritage to create internationally acclaimed works such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, Moore celebrates the folk stories of his native Ireland as he did in his 2009 Oscar nominated film The Secret of Kells. 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. 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.
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. 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. Set aside all that digital garbage and be refreshed by a style of animation that is truly magical.
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. It has dark elements, a timeless and engrossing story, and an aesthetic mastery that will see you through these otherwise barren months of cinema.
Read the full review and others like it on the Drive-in Zeppelin website