From the same director and writer who brought you the animated masterwork The Secret of Kells (2009), Thomm Moore returns with his follow-up Song of the Sea (2014). As both writer and director, Moore manages to create a tale that is not only beautifully orchestrated, but adept at softening even the most Alan Moore of comic book readers. It’s a rare animated treasure, kin to dare I say Pixar and Ghibli in it’s path. Moore is making a series of films that capture something specific to him as a storyteller but still speaks to it’s audience as a child and adult, similar to those well-loved animation distributors.
Ben loses his mother at a young age. She was one of the last remaining selkies, which were Irish mythological women that could turn into seals. With his mother’s passing, she left a little sister…. Saoirse. Ben has no tolerance for his little sister. He’s ordered by his father to constantly watch and care for her while being neglected by a dad who dotes only on his precious girl. For most films they would focus on the father completely ignoring Ben and showing obvious favoritism. Song of the Sea instead shows his father with a hazy eyed expression, stuck in a fog and unaware that he needs to be a father.
One thing that’s wonderful about these middle ground pg adult animated films is they stand a part in their understanding of the world being a mature place, and yet maintaining a child’s perception of that. It’s one of a million reasons why people are drawn to Hayao Miyazaki’s films.
There are no weird jokes that had to be put in to entertain adults, and hidden to subvert child curiosity. The voice acting is done by children. There is no 22 year old chained to a Disney contract trying to make his stay in California worth the debt he put his parents through. This creates an earnest atmosphere in a movie that is wonder and an underlying anxiousness. You can’t tell if the film will take a dark turn or work out for the best.
A beautiful film in sight and heart, Song of the Sea’s is succinct in that it does not heavy hand the heart touching melodrama, while providing gorgeous frames.
Betty Windsor is a film snob and co-host of shows Geek Versus Week and the Graveyard Shift.