Celtic mythology is a rich and beautiful world of faeries and monsters each with an ever more unpronounceable name. From the celestial plains of Tir Na Nog to the faithful followers of Tuatha De Danann, it`s not hard to see why beyond banshees and kelpies, the majority of Irish legends remain a mystery to most people.
In his delightful little Oscar nominated animation, Song of the Sea, Tomm Moore introduces us to some of Ireland`s most peculiar beasties in an enchanting tale for all the family.
After his mother dies during childbirth, young Ben`s life is turned upside down. His father, the local lighthouse keeper, is left distant and despondent, whilst his little sister Saoirse is mute. Things take a bizarre turn, however, when Saoirse turns six and discovers an old coat hidden in the lighthouse, which upon wearing grants her the ability to turn into a seal. Her father, panicked, throws the coat into the ocean and sends the children to live with their busybody grandmother in the city.
Upon arrival in Dublin, however, the children are approached by a band of faeries, who inform them that they must find the coat so that Saoirse can sing her selkie song, thereby saving the faerie kingdom from the owl witch Macha, hell-bent on ridding the world of pain, and in doing so turning any being with emotion to stone.
From here begins the children`s long and arduous quest back to the lighthouse to save the world. Along the way, they meet an array of fantastical creatures, both benevolent and otherwise, each helping or hindering them along their way.
There`s something very Ghibli-esque about Song of the Sea, with its labyrinthine narrative perpetually twisting and turning through various set-pieces and eccentric characters. The animation is ostensibly unique, giving it its own other-worldly charm. Backgrounds are illustrated with Celtic symbols, and the simple yet expressive character design, especially of the animal characters, is instantly endearing. Indeed, even in the film`s saddest moments, one can`t help but raise a bittersweet smile as the cheerful seals inevitably pop up to say a cheerful hello.
The only real flaw with Song of the Sea is that its second act does rather drag. After a wonderful opening, the scenes of Ben wandering from place to place are rather dreary. Sure, there are some beautiful set-pieces, and Bruno Coulais` haunting Celtic score will keep adults entertained, but might cause some bottom fidgeting from the little ones.
That said, Song of the Sea is a wonderful piece of animation worthy of any of the major studio. Moore is definitely a maestro in the making. Rich with Irish folklore in a reassuringly familiar setting, Song of the Sea is a treat for all the family.
4 / 5
Dir: Tomm Moore
Scr: Will Collins
Starring: David Rawie, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lucy O`Connell
Prd: Claus Toksvig Kjaer, Tomm Moore, Paul Young
Music: Bruno Coulais
Run Time: 93mins
Song of the Sea is available on digital HD November 2nd and on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD from November 9th.