(No, not that one)
2015 is off to a good start in terms of animation. I had the opportunity to see the new film by Tom Moore (of The Secret of Kells fame), and it is definitely one of the best animated movies I’ve seen in recent years. Without giving too much away, the Song of the Sea concerns two children living under the shadow of familial loss, selkies and other bits of Celtic yore, an Adventure, and adults who don’t really understand. So, with the exception of Irish folklore, the we’re pretty familiar with these ingredients in kid’s movies. But they’re used wonderfully. Here are some initial thoughts:
– First of all, I like that we have a fairy-tale inspired story which doesn’t feel the need to be revisionist or to throw in some exciting modern spin. Song approaches its traditions with a sense of wonder and reverence which is refreshing.
– The art, which falls somewhere in between, “flat storybook” and “stained glass windows” is gorgeous. There’s a lot going on within the frames, such that I sometimes found my eye being pulled in different directions within a single shot. But instead of feeling busy or crowded, it just feels rich. It’ll be worth snapping up the DVD just for the sake of taking in all the details.
– The story is very deliberately paced, taking its time to unfold (to the point where I kinda felt the first act dragged a little bit). And the drama itself is a bit muted, which speaks to Moore’s confidence in the emotional weight of his material. It’s well placed: his almost contemplative approach is successful, in part because…
– Song is willing to confront the reality of grief, loss and longing in a very real way. It is willing to accept that these are very constant features of the human condition, and to offer no pat solutions; but it is also willing to recognize that there is a redemptive lining to these things. A lesser film would have smothered that out in sentimentality.
A second viewing, at least, is definitely in order.