Looking for a St. Patrick's Day film to celebrate the big day? Two of my favorites are The Quiet Man and the hilarious Waking Ned Devine. Recently I discovered a new favorite, Song of the Sea (2014), an Irish fairy tale set in modern times. It is directed by Tomm Moore, co-founder of the Irish animation company Cartoon Saloon. I was captivated by its artistry, made possible by hand-drawn animation and original music.
In the plot, Conor,a lighthouse keeper who lives on an island with his ten year old son Ben, wife Bronagh, and sheepdog Cu. Bronagh dies after childbirth, leaving the gift of an infant daughter named Saoirse, who is mute. Later, it is discovered that Saoirse is a selkie, a seal who can shed its skin and become human. The children embark on an adventure through the Irish countryside, accompanied by their sheepdog Cu, who is reminiscent of the dog Nana in Peter Pan. They encounter Macha, an owl witch. Macha steals feelings and turns people into stone. Ultimately, Ben comes to the rescue, giving Macha back her feelings and allowing her to realize that feelings, even those that are painful, make us fully human.
Few animated films take on the delicate subject of grief, but Moore did a test-screening with his wife's primary school class. After watching the film, students wrote down their comments and turned them in to Moore.I loved the results. The children told Moore that he was too heavy-handed in his approach. Tone it down, be more subtle, the students wrote. Movie directors take heed! Kids don't like plots that are non-stop action. Kids don't need another movie showing Godzilla battling King Kong and destroying New York City in the process. Thankfully, Moore took their advice .
Steve D. Greydanos (Decent Films),my favorite film reviewer, wrote of the film, Tomm Moore isn't afraid to take the time to breathe deeply, savor moments of silence and beauty, and open the door to wonder and mystery.
Song of the Sea was greeted with overwhelmingly positive reviews and was nominated for best animated film in 2015.