Song of the Sea

 

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Ireland’s Tomm Moore presents us with another animated feature that bears his personal 

stamp.

 

Song of the Sea


 

Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli - these are the great names in animation, but there are plenty of more modest yet decidedly distinguished artists at work in this field and one of them is Tomm Moore. He is Irish and that fact encourages him to make animated features rooted in local history and legend. In 2008, he gave us The Secret of Kells and now we also have Song of the Sea, a tale in which human characters engage with spirits from the sea. As such, it is not miles away from the Japanese work Ponyo (2008) but its own individual and distinctively Irish flavour is potent.

 

The central figures are two youngsters, Ben and Saoirse, who live with their father (voiced by Brendan Gleeson) in a lighthouse on an offshore island that is connected to the mainland by ferry. However, their mother is a selkie being human on land but a seal when in the water. Her son Ben is a normal child, but Saoirse, a speechless six-year-old, is in contrast but half-human since she takes after her mother. Consequently she is drawn to the sea and to her mother’s world and, although a practical granny takes the children away from the coast to Dublin, a place of greater safety, her brusque manner makes both children unhappy. They long to go home, but what brings matters to a head is the kidnapping of Saoirse by a fairy duo, which leads to Ben coming to her rescue along with his best friend, the dog Cúi.

 

The tale is episodic but engaging with an excellent voice cast - in addition to Gleeson, we have among others Pat Shortt and Fionnula Flanagan, the latter voicing both granny and a witch encountered on the homeward journey. This latter figure, the witch, is the more interesting for being presented as a complex character rather than the all-evil creature that provides the stereotype. Children watching this should be entertained, but the film’s ethnic element will add to its appeal for an adult audience - and all the more so as the film moves towards it positive but sensitive close. Capably designed and made from the heart, Song of the Sea is a reimagining of old legends, a film of true individuality in a world full of production line movies. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Voices of  David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, Lucy O'Connell, Lisa Hannigan, Jon Kenny, Pat Shortt, Colm O Snodaigh, Liam Hourican, Kevin Swierszcz.

Dir Tomm Moore, Pro Tomm Moore, Ross Murray, Paul Young, Isabelle Truc and Claus Toksvig Kjaer, Screenplay Will Collins, from an original story by Tomm Moore, Pro Des Adrien Mérigeau, Ed Darragh Byrne, Music Bruno Coulais, Animation Supervisors Gilles Rudziak and Frederik Villumsen.

 

The Cartoon Saloon/Melusine Productions/The Big Farm/Superprod/Nørlum/Bord Scannán Na hÉireann/Irish Film Board-StudioCanal.
94 mins. Ireland/Luxembourg/Belgium/France. 2014. Rel: 10 July 2015. Cert. PG.