Sunday, December 21, 2014

Movie with Abe: Song of the Sea

Song of the Sea
Directed by Tomm Moore
Released December 19, 2014

There’s a certain feel that Irish films have that can’t quite be duplicated. This year has seen “Life’s a Breeze,” a comedy about an older woman whose family unwittingly throws away her life savings, and “Calvary,” a drama about a priest threatened by an unknown member of his church, make it over to U.S. audiences. But the one likeliest to be remembered is director Tomm Moore’s follow-up to his Oscar-nominated animated feature “The Secret of Kells,” a haunting, inviting look at Irish folklore brought to life with creative animation.

“Song of the Sea” chooses as its focus the mythical selkie, a sea creature which was the subject of another memorable Irish film, “Ondine,” which saw Colin Farrell’s fisherman meet one such legendary creature. In this film, dependable Irish actors Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flangan provide voices for a story of a widower who lives with his two young children by the sea. The film introduces his son, Ben, eagerly awaiting the birth of his baby sister, but the death of his mother in the process of her birth results in his hatred and resentment of his matricidal sibling. Irresponsible antics bring their grandmother, who rips them from their seaside life and drives them through the city to the country, where a four o’clock bedtime is just the beginning of a magical adventure.

“Song of the Sea,” like “The Secret of Kells” before it, uses animation as a launching pad for telling stories that couldn’t be told to the same degree using live action. Drawings help landscapes and creatures come alive, and overcome obstacles that a truer-to-life format might present. Though he detests his sister, Saiorse, Ben embraces the wonder of the situation when he realizes that she is a selkie, and that their late mother was a selkie too. The spirit of curiosity and air of enchantment in this film is infectious, and it helps its truly extraordinary events and characters feel like they could well exist. A strong combination of inventive animation and a good old Irish fairy tale converge in this GKIDS film that is probably more effective for adults than for kids, if only due to the depth of its content. It’s nice to see a reliably Irish film that demonstrates that one country has a knack for animation and for sharing its folklore on the big screen.


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