Meticulously blending a unique animation style with Celtic mythos, director Tomm Moore’s second feature film The Song of The Sea is a sight to see. Together, the vibrant colors and imaginative style create an atmosphere unlike any other animated film released this past year. The Song of the Sea makes for a fun, adventurous tale and is necessary to see for anyone interested in animated films.
Though Moore set his sights on creating a narrative that is easy for children to agree with, there is plenty of material within the film for adults to digest as well. For example, the film’s main themes highlight the nature of loss and the importance of family. The main story, which is based on the ancient Celtic myth of the Selkie, follows two children named Ben and Saoirse, who live in a lighthouse by the sea with their father, Conor. The first sequence of the film divulges that the children in fact lost their mother when Saoirse was born, and the entire family struggles to deal with the loss of their mother even though it has been about six years since the event. Ben knows he has a great responsibility that to be a dependable big brother to Saoirse, yet he is easily frustrated with Saoirse, who, at the age of six, apparently is still unable to speak a single word. However, when Saoirse discovers a shell flute that used to belong to their mother, Ben and Saoirse embark on magical journey to uncovering the secret behind their mother’s past.
While children can relate to Ben and Saoirse’s conflicted yet loving relationship, adults will relate more to Conor. All of us have experienced some form of loss at some point in our lives and Conor unfortunately begins to isolate himself a bit from his family since he still misses his wife even after several years. This is an ongoing struggle for Conor as he tries to juggle dealing with the loss of his wife, raising his kids, and keeping himself afoot as to be a good role model for his children. His depression often leads to unintentional neglect, especially when Conor ships off his children to live with Conor’s mother so he can reside alone at the lighthouse. Though isolation always appears to be the best remedy for these types of situations, Conor learns later on that family is most important and that he needs to learn live with the loss instead of fighting it.
Even though these themes are inherently profound, it is thanks to the amazing score and creative animation that allow the themes to come to life. The music, created by Bruno Coulais and Irish folk band Kíla, consists of a mixture of traditional Celtic folk music with a modern twist. The music supports the narrative greatly since the film’s story is heavily rooted in Celtic folklore. Supporting the music are vibrant and colorful visuals, reminiscent of watercolor paintings that allow the story to play out as if it were excerpts from a children’s picture book. In this film, each working part serves to support the other and that is why the film was a huge success—there is not one dull moment.
However, the film does have a minor downside. With such a creative plot, the depth of the story and its participating characters lack some complexity that sometimes can leave the viewer yearning for more information. It is obvious that the film’s creators slightly sacrificed these elements in order to put an emphasis on atmosphere over development of the plot and characters. In reality, people are more multifaceted than the film makes out most of these characters to be and the film would have benefited from a few scenes that showed us more about these characters’ personalities. The film moved quickly (it is only 90 minutes long), and though quick pacing is often a plus, the film felt slightly truncated. An extra 20-30 minutes of material would not have detracted from the film’s movement at all since it progressed through its acts so rapidly. But maybe this is asking too much, since the film triumphs without utilizing detailed character development and intricate dialogue to tell the story. The film retains a more poetic disposition that soundly suits the imaginary tale of the Selkie.
The Song of the Sea is a huge success. This film is not the result of a single mind, but the result of many creative minds working together to create a truly unique portrait of an undoubtedly relatable fairytale supported by truly graceful animation and music.