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The New Irish Movie Everyone Should See!!

               On St. Patrick’s Day I talked about The Guard, how good a film it was, and why it was my favourite Irish movie. Now, though that film is as good as ever, I feel I should talk about the movie that for me has just replaced it!
                I was fascinated by Song of the Sea ever since I started following last years’ Awards season, but never got around to watching it, what with all the other major nominated films I needed to see. Well I missed out, especially considering I just watched a film that was better than almost all of those nominees! Heavily drawing from Irish myth and folklore, Song of the Sea is about a little girl Saoirse who happens to be a Selkie (a Gaelic seal spirit) and her older brother Ben. They don’t get along primarily because Ben associates Saoirse with their mother who disappeared when she was born. Their father has become an alcoholic in a seemingly permanent state of depression, and eventually the children are sent to the city with their grandmother. They discover faeries who tell Saoirse she has the power to send them to their ancient home by singing the song of the sea and the siblings embark on an epic magical quest.
                This film looks amazing! The animation is some of the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen; it’s fluid yet simplistic style is tonally perfect making it feel like a storybook. At the same time it’s so colourful and distinctly intricately designed that it becomes mesmerizing to look at. And the creativity is through the roof! The designs of the mythical figures and their environments are so interesting and beautiful. There are ideas in even the props and backgrounds that are amazingly new. The motion of characters and places is stupendous and there are scenes that in their visual splendour alone feel like classics of the art form. And the movie does such a good job of reminding us of the artistic marvel of cinema, and more particularly animation.
                While the plot borrows elements of legendary Gaelic ideas, figures, and beings, the story is very original being grounded in a fairly modern setting with relatable characters, making the fantastical experiences all the more effective. And they make turns you don’t expect taking you on a grand journey. There’s some great moments of tension and a couple scenes even give off an unsettling and eerie atmosphere. It keeps you guessing. And as it does this, Saoirse and Ben are a wonderful pair to follow, compelling and lovable as they bond on this journey. Saoirse is adorable as well as clever and curious with an endearing sense of wide-eyed wonder that comes through despite her lack of speech (she’s a late talker). Ben (voiced by Moone Boy’s David Rawle) is feisty, determined, and surprisingly courageous as we see him forced to be his sister’s caretaker. In many ways he’s an average boy, resistant to change and a bit reckless, and we see his character grow on their adventure. His sensibilities and reasoning are relatable even if his behaviour sometimes isn’t and as the guardian of his otherworldly sister, he’s our hero in many ways and our surrogate in the story. The supporting characters whether they be human or faerie are brought to life too by the animation, the storytelling, and in some cases the voice acting. Two of The Guard’s cast, Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan appear in this film as the kids’ dad Connor, and Granny. And singer Lisa Hannigan is brilliant as the kids’ mother Bronagh, bringing to her performance the character’s mysticism. These characters service the story incredibly well and very quickly earn your investment. And that pays off. There are scenes that just give off a feeling of joy. Which sounds really corny, but they do. The emotion is just as important a part of this film’s story as its characters and we get some incredibly touching moments especially between the siblings. It’s got a wonderful sense of heart and is truly a film that inspires both laughter and tears. And did I mention the Celtic soundtrack is also really delightful? Because it is!
                If that wasn’t enough, the film has a really resonant tragic theme to it. Ben’s resentful relationship with his sister is based on the tragedy of his mothers’ disappearance which not only deepens his character and gives him a personal hurdle to cross but also creates a melancholy tone. For a film that deals with supernatural forces, it adds a realistic element to the characterizations of Ben and his father which in a way keeps them in the real world while Saoirse stays beyond it. And dealing with tragedy appears elsewhere in the film whether it be the faeries longing for their native realm, or the film’s sort-of villain, who comes with their own tragic backstory motivating their actions. And this theme provides for some good ideas and morals that the film relates very subtly and with respect to the intelligence of their audience.
When I talk about wanting to see a traditionally animated film that’s creative, captivating, and gorgeous to look at with enjoyable characters, a rich world and a sense of wonder, Song of the Sea is the film I envisioned, and I’m so glad it finally came along! It has quickly become one of my favourite animated films and is evidence of the sheer brilliance that can be done in animation; and it really makes me wish that this kind of imagination and ingenuity can be brought to animated films in Hollywood. But not being Hollywood may be its greatest asset, and I have to say as it is I absolutely love Song of the Sea, in my opinion Ireland’s greatest cinematic gem to the world!

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