Arts movie review

Song of the Sea: A beautiful Irish tale

Song of the Sea stuns with hand-painted animation

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A hand-drawn scene of Saoirse and Ben’s adventures by Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon.
Courtesy of GKIDS Inc.
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Saoirse follows a trail of mysterious lights along the beach in a scene exemplifying the animators’ talent.
Courtesy of GKIDS Inc.


Song of The Sea

Director: Tomm Moore

Writers: Will Collins and Tomm Moore

Rated PG

From Snow White and Mulan to Ratatouille and Frozen, I have always associated animated movies with Disney and Pixar — movies with bold colors and characters with big eyes. These movies’ characters shared a distinctive cartoonish look that practically begged to be placed into a coloring book complete with a pack of crayons. I have been so used to this style of mainstream animation that when I watched Song of the Sea, I was taken aback by the mesmerizing watercolor animation that filled the screen with beautiful gradients and intricate Celtic patterns. Not only did the plot engage me until the end, but the film was simply gorgeous. No coloring book could do this justice.

As Song of the Sea begins, Ben, a young boy, is constantly frustrated by his silent little sister, Saoirse, who always seems to get her way. Their father never seems to scold Saoirse for wandering too close to the ocean, and she can’t keep her hands away from Ben’s precious sea shell — a gift from their mother before she mysteriously abandoned their family. Unbeknownst to Ben, his sister and mother are both selkies, ancient Celtic mythological creatures who are seals while in the sea, but humans on land. After Saoirse runs away chasing a mysterious trail of lights, Ben follows her, and soon finds himself in a mythological world where his childhood fairy tales have come to life. He must uncover a family mystery to save the creatures that he and his sister meet along the way.

The film jumps between scenes of a busy Irish street and scenes of a glowing underground cavern, with the plot seamlessly weaving in and out of the fantasy world. Pay attention to the recurring symbols and themes, and you’ll notice an intricate web of foreshadowing that ties the entire film together. With such a strong plot and stunning art direction, it is no surprise that Song of the Sea was recently nominated for Best Animated Feature in the Academy Awards.

If you enjoy the typical animated movie by Disney or Pixar, watch Song of the Sea for a different perspective on the capabilities of animation. If you think that animated productions are silly movies for children, let the stunning artwork of Song of the Sea surprise you with an old Irish tale that is sure to captivate viewers both young and old.