Song of the Sea (2014)

Review #1,318

Director:  Tomm Moore
Cast:  David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan, Lucy O'Connell
Plot:  Ben, a young Irish boy, and his little sister Saoirse, a girl who can turn into a seal, go on an adventure to free the faeries and save the spirit world.

Genre:  Animation / Adventure / Fantasy
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Animated Feature
Runtime:  93min
Rating:  PG for some mild peril, language and pipe smoking images.
International Sales:  West End Films

“My son, remember me in your stories and in your songs.  Know that I will always love you, always.”

I first caught Irish filmmaker Tom Moore's animated feature debut The Secret of Kells (2009) at the European Union Film Festival (EUFF) in 2010.  While I was suitably impressed by its art and cultural mythology, I left feeling a tad underwhelmed.  But I figured if Moore continued his path of producing culturally unique and artistically refreshing animation in the future, he would surely become a leading auteur in the world of European animation. 

With Song of the Sea, his sophomore effort, also screened at the EUFF, he gives us a more assured and satisfying work.  Very much suitable for both kids and adults, Moore's film is wondrous and magical.  In fact, if there ever was an animation that could be described as ethereal, this could be it. 

Centering on a boy and her sister who live with their dad on a house atop an unbelievably steep cliff on the sea (they need to travel by ferry to the mainland), the film takes a sharp corner into the mysterious when the sister turns into a seal after donning her late mother's secret coat.  Moore's work is an adventure that brings fantasy and reality together, where the spiritual world of the past needs salvation with the help of the two kids—and their oversized pet. 

Composed entirely of 2D images that are drawn and coloured digitally—apparently Song of the Sea was created entirely using TV Paint, an entry-level animation software—the film is mesmerizing in its simplicity, yet possess a sense of peculiarity. 

Moore's extensive use of Irish elements, from the Celtic-influenced music to the art direction adds to the mythicizing of what is essentially a tale of courage, sacrifice and human connection.  Perhaps these familiar themes provide a dose of accessibility in an otherwise unfamiliar setting and style. 

Song of the Sea also goes into a more emotional territory in the climax, though this is inevitable in a story about family.  If you are looking for an antidote to the fast and furious world of Hollywood animation, this comes as a leisurely if immensely engaging option.

Verdict:  An ethereal animated feature if there ever was one, Irish filmmaker Tomm Moore’s wondrous follow-up to The Secret of Kells is an antidote to the fast and furious world of Hollywood animation.


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