Song of the Sea - Ireland's Oscar Nominated Gem

Projected Film: Song of the Sea Review

Runtime: 94mins | Director: Tomm Moore | Rating: 5 Stars

When I first started writing this blog I’d intended to have a relatively even weighting of both new releases and past film reviews. Admittedly, I’ve slacked in the older film department so this week’s review is an attempt to remedy that – Song of the Sea, directed by Tomm Moore.

So, why this film? Well, not only did a close friend recommend it to me, but it was also up for an Oscar nomination in 2015 for Best Animated Film. More importantly though, given that it is heavily centred around Ireland, it seemed an appropriate time to review it given the day I’m writing this is St. Patrick’s Day!

Song of the Sea tells the story of two children who live with their father, Conor (Brendan Gleeson), in a lighthouse in Ireland. Sadly, their mother died during childbirth, and as a result, Ben (David Rawle), blames his sister, Saoirse (Lucy O’ Connell), for her death.

One day, their grandmother comes to visit the children and demands they move with her to the city as their father isn’t allowing them to lead a normal life. Once there though, the children try to escape, and on their way home discover that Saoirse isn’t human, but in fact, a mythical creature called a Selkie.

Upon discovering this, it is revealed that she is destined to save all other mythical Irish creatures who have been turned to stone by the Celtic goddess, Macha (Fionnula Flanagan) which takes the children on an unforgettable journey.

Projected Film: Song of the Sea Review

For me, Song of the Sea is a near-perfect film – a bold claim, I know, but one I stand by.

The first thing I noticed about this film once I started watching it was just how beautiful the animation was. Drawn entirely by hand, the characters and scenery aren’t just viewed as frames for a scene, but as individual pieces of art which truly bring them to life on the screen.

The combination of the subtle palette and gentle shades along with the immensely satisfying symmetry throughout which would make even Wes Anderson jealous make this one of the most visually stunning films I have seen. This isn’t surprising though given Song of the Sea drew inspiration from Studio Ghibli who are notorious for the beauty of their animation.

Projected Film: Song of the Sea Review

As I’ve said in past reviews though, it’s all well and good having fantastic animation, but this isn’t enough to make a film truly brilliant alone.

Fortunately, Song of the Sea also has significant narrative depth to it, and a poignancy which I haven’t come across in an animated film probably since Up!

Key to this film is the Irish mythology surrounding Selkie’s – a mythical creature which can willingly switch from human to seal. Often, a Selkie would switch to its human form, have a family, then one day slip unnoticed back to the water to live the rest of its mythical life without them.

When analysed, the Selkie’s provide a narrative for the bereavement process of lonely husbands and children who lost their mother’s or wive’s respectively – something that has a distinct poignancy to it.

It’s, therefore, unsurprising that a story distinctly rooted in Irish mythology depicting the emotions surrounding the departure of a Selkie and the grief it causes those left behind makes for a captivating, engaging film. More importantly though, by telling this story from the children’s perspective, it makes it far more relatable and tugs at your heartstrings even harder.

Projected Film: Song of the Sea Review

What’s more is that throughout the film, there are obvious comparisons made between the real world and the fantasy one. This adds a further layer of depth and complexity to the emotions the children feel, as shown in other films which do a similar thing such as Spirited Away and Bridge to Terabithia which both feature an inability to cope with real-world problems resulting in fantasy based escapism.

This concept of unresolved emotion is a key them throughout the film, and probably best evidenced by Macha storing people’s emotions in glass jars giving a very on the nose interpretation to the phrase, “bottling your emotions”.

Whilst you may not have heard of Song of the Sea – I hadn’t until two weeks ago – it comes highly recommended.

Featuring a poignant storyline rooted in Irish folklore dealing with the complexity of familial love and the unresolved emotions of death, Tomm Moore has once again proved himself a stellar director. It is one of the best-animated films I have seen and gives the work of Hayao Miyazaki a run for its money which alone makes it worth a watch.

In short, this isn’t a film to be missed and one which certainly hasn’t received as much attention as it should.

Shame on the 2015 Oscars for not making this its winner – it deserved it.


To watch the trailer – click here

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