Some films revel in action and set pieces. Massive blockbusters often want you to remember what happens in the film. They want you to stare agog as characters leap from building to building. Dodging death by the skin of their teeth. Then there are films that just create a world and a setting that you want to be a part of. They make you fall in love with their landscapes and the characters that inhabit them. Song of the Sea manages to do that and so much more.
Seeped in Celtic myth, Song of the Sea tells a simple story. A young Selkie must regain her coat in order to sing a song that will free the fairy people from the curse of Macha the witch, who has been taking their emotions and turning them into stone. What this translates to is a brother and sister, Ben and Saoirse (the aforementioned Selkie), making their way from the big city back to their home. Along the way they meet a whole host of colourful fairies who either aid or hinder them on their quest, while their sheepdog Cu stands faithfully by their side.
A simple quest has been the basis for many a film over the years, however such simplicity does not become a problem when a story is told with as much beauty and heart as this one. Tomm Moore’s film is brimming with passion and you can feel the fascination he has for these old stories in every frame. There’s a magic to Song of the Sea which you just can’t fake.
That magic is emphasised by its gorgeous animation, which bears more resemblance to Studio Ghibli than it does Disney. Every scene gives the appearance of being hand drawn and the landscapes which these characters pass through have a stunning beauty to them. By painting things like the ocean in such broad strokes they give it more power than something that has been animated into an inch of its life. This film looks and feels like you imagine the legends it tells and that makes it come all the more alive, despite the fact it’s a resolutely 2D perspective.
The question for a film like this has to be whether it works for children. Celtic myth and beautiful drawing is great for aduly appreciation, but your average five-year old is not going to buy that when there are Minions on the screen down the road. While I am of course not a five-year old child, I do think this film does enough to capture them. It is in the business of stories and it tells a story that I think children will love. Characters like the Great Seanachai with his giant beard, each hair of which contains a story, have a life and energy to them that will attract even the youngest of eyes. While the simple central story of the bonding of a brother and sister will appeal to any age group.
Song of the Sea is a wonderful film and I can’t imagine anyone being able to watch it without falling in love with it. The love and passion that has been poured into it bursts out of every scene and if you are looking for something a bit different in these blockbuster filled summer months, it is one that you should definitely be seeking out.