Song of the Sea – Review

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Featuring the voice talents of: David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Lisa Hannigan, Fionnula Flanagan, Lucy O’Connell
Story by: Tomm Moore
Written for the screen by: Will Collins
Directed by: Tomm Moore
Metacritic Score: 85
IMDb Score: 8.3
Nominated for one Academy Award (Best Animated Feature)

Rated PG for some mild peril, language and pipe smoking images

Children will always have films they love as a child. For me, it was The Little Mermaid, mainly due to the music and I had no yet known I had an attraction to redheads. What was odd too about this was that I never told my family I loved this movie so much: I’d watch it all the time at school, since they would show it damn near all the time.

3 years later, I was dumbstruck that I loved yet another cartoon movie, even though I was growing of the age of not supposing to do so: Beauty and the Beast. Then, just 2 years later, I would once again fall in love with another Disney movie: The Lion King.

It wasn’t until 2 years later that I realized that I didn’t just love animated films: I loved films in general. That was when I sat down with my parents to watch a movie that was getting glowing reviews in 1996, being called one of the best films of the decade. That film was Fargo, and it started a nearly life long obsession/love of cinema and the need/want to find great movies to watch, no matter where they are or what they are.

Today, even after years of growth, maturation and experience, as well as nearly 1500 films I’ve seen, some of my favorite films are still Beauty and the BeastThe Lion King and Fargo.

Why am I going on such a long diatribe over my favorite movies now? Because this movie, Song of the Sea, is a movie that I know if I watched this in my more molding and formative years, it would help me fall in love with film.

Every person has a favorite movie. It takes a special movie to make a person fall in love with film. I will boldly say that when animators and film makers 20 years later will be asked “What was one of the movies that made you fall in love with cinema?” I’d seriously think they would say this movie: Song of the Sea.

Saoirse (O’Connell), a little girl who has yet to talk at age 6, comes to find out that she is a Selkie, a human who can turn into a seal. After her and her brother Ben (Rawle) are forced to move in with her grandmother, they run away on an adventure that leads them to save the spirit world and enchanted beings like Saoirse.

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With it’s simplistic yet charming animation and its wondrous story, Song of the Sea is a heartfelt story that is transfixing as its entertaining. Song‘s use of Irish mysticism, along with two very charming characters in Ben and Saoirse, gives the film a whimsical tale that children will definitely like, while keeping parents interested in the interesting art style and the touching tale of loss.

Song of the Sea’s animation truly is an interesting and surprisingly attractive look for a movie that looks fairly simplistic. The characters, which look like cut-outs that seem to live on a painted canvas, are actually well animated for the lack of articulation the film possesses on the actual characters themselves. The result is a feeling of watching a painting come to life with a homegrown feeling of a scrapbook of memories.

The characters are written to be more towards the family friendly type, which means that depth isn’t a chief concern. Dad is a sad big guy; grandma is a stubborn old fuddy-duddy; Cu is a dog; Ben is a child still grieving over the loss of his mom. All very standard characters that kids can actually empathize with no sort of gray.

That normally would be a problem, but this film subverts that issue with a wholly whimsical feeling that is very akin to Spirited Away. The movie is more concentrated on creating a world that has a life of its own and its own story to tell, rather than make a plot line or character arc that would pad the movie.

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This only works because the entire world surrounding Song of the Sea is so breathtaking to watch and interesting to live in. It’s use of Irish and Scottish folklore (none of which I was privy to before watching) enhances the scenic backdrops to give this film a unique perspective on which to take in all of these different stories.

The best thing this movie does is simply create its world and let’s it breathe in to be analyzed. The film doesn’t pander to its audience, which is predominately children: it respects the fact that, even though you are young, you understand the world around you in sorts.

It startled me when I realized I was watching a movie that wasn’t do the old “something for the kids/something for the adults” family movie setup. Nothing really felt forced or obvious; it’s a movie that has a message that all people can relate to understand, no matter what age. The film had a confidence that was saying that no matter what, someone will get something out of this, and it’s more than possible it’s correct.

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Song of the Sea‘s closest contemporary, in regards to storytelling and quality, is the Studio Ghibli masterpiece Spirited Away, a movie celebrated the world over for having an exquisite animation and both haunting and heartfelt story. Do I think it’s better than Spirited Away? Not that I can see, but it’s close.

I will say that Song of the Sea would be a movie I’d be proud to one for myself just to analyze and enjoy, but it’s also a film that captured the wonder and feeling of what movies did when I first fell in love with movies. Call it my animated Cinema Paradiso, if you will.

Song of the Sea deserves your attention and will more than deserve the acclaim it gets when people finally start watching this movie. Deep, heartfelt, funny, whimsical, powerful: a movie that someday I would love to sit down with a family of my own and experience with.

5/5 – With its simplistic style but layered narrative, Song of the Sea’s world and its characters will leave viewers breathless

The Wiz Says #24

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