Song of the Sea (2014)
Voices of Brendan Gleeson, David Rawle, and Fionnula Flanagan. Written by Will Collins. Directed by Tomm Moore.
Ben is resentful of his little sister Saoirse, who still cannot speak at the age of six and who is little more than a thorn in his side. His father and grandmother are of very little comfort, and it seems all Ben has are the stories his mother told him when he was younger. Sometimes, Ben shares these stories with Saoirse, more to frighten her than encourage her, but these legends of Ireland seem to resonate with Saoirse even more meaningfully than they do Ben.
Song of the Sea has a lot in common with the earlier film by Tomm Moore, The Secret of Kells. Both are rich with the folklore of Ireland, both are highlighted by beautiful artwork and music, and both reach into the sensitivities of their young audiences, touching on cultural identity and familial loss. Maybe it doesn’t take as much courage as I imagine for a storyteller to wriggle into those spaces where children are vulnerable, but I find it admirable when he or she executes it in non-gratuitous, effective ways. The sentiments are so genuine that I would caution parents to screen this film first before deciding whether their children are emotionally equipped to handle its themes.
The story, art, and larger themes are perhaps just a click or two below The Secret of Kells, but Song of the Sea spends more time than its predecessor on character development, offering a slightly more satisfying experience. This may be nitpicking, though, because both are lovely to look at, although this film is a lot cutesier, which may be an improvement or not.
I like it.