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He Said, She Said Review Site

Song of the Sea

What She said:


Not so long ago, The He and I watched a rather unknown animated movie out of Europe called The Secret of Kells. It was a traditional 2D flick with hand-drawn animation, but was absolutely beautiful to watch because of its artistry. The story was also interesting, although I’ll admit that I’m a little bit ignorant to Celtic myth. Anyway, Song of the Sea is a follow-up offering from that same production group. It has a very similar feel in its animation and is once again based on a Celtic story. However, I actually liked this movie even better than The Secret of Kells. I found it easier to follow and was just blown away by the general look of it.

Song of the Sea

Song of the Sea is based on the myth of the selkie. A selkie is a creature that is human on land, but becomes a seal when it is in the water. They’re god-like, although in this film they’re described as one of many types of fairies. Anyway, we’re introduced to two children, Ben and Saoirse, whose mother died when Saoirse was being born.  Their father, Conor, is loving, but also not entirely engaged with his children, himself still struggling with the tragic loss of his wife. The family lives on a small island where Conor man’s a lighthouse.

Ben is roughly 8 or 9 years old and little Saoirse is only about six, but Ben is not the nicest older brother. He’s very resentful of Saoirse, likely because he holds her accountable for their mother’s death, and he becomes easily annoyed with her presence. Saoirse has never uttered a single word, literally, but she follows her brother around because he is the only friend that she has. Shortly before Saoirse was born, their mother gave Ben a conch shell flute that she used to play music. Saoirse takes a liking to the flute and starts to play it. When she does, magic is unleashed, and she is guided to a beautiful white coat. With the coat on, she finds herself drawn to the sea, where it is revealed that the little girl is a selkie, just like her mother was.

The kid’s father is worried about his children’s behavior and sends them away to live with their grandmother in the city. But tearing Saoirse away from the sea and her white coat has ill effects on her. Her physical condition begins to deteriorate, and Ben realizes that the mythological stories that his mother used to tell him were, in fact, true. He knows that his sister needs her white coat to survive, and so the two begin a journey back to their home. Along the way they are threatened by evil forces that seek to extinguish the magic within our world. Will Ben be able to step up to the challenge of being a loyal older brother, face his fears, and save his sister?

Song of the Sea

I probably did not do this plot justice in my description of it. Basically, it’s the story of a journey that brings two siblings closer together. It’s actually a really nice story, and one that’s easy to follow. While I, again, am no pro with Celtic folklore, I found this film to be more relatable than The Secret of Kells, and thusly had no problem getting on board for the ride. I think the film is generally well written and that the characters have real substance.

The area where this movie really stands out is its beautiful animation. While somewhat basic in some sense, the visuals of this film are richly colorful and artfully done. You can tell that this is hand-drawn and that much care was given to creating the scenery, and there is a real payoff to this. Some of your more colorful CGI animation that we see so much of nowadays can end up being desensitizing because it’s so sharply drawn—it’s just too much to take in. However, Song of the Sea expertly blends rich colors with pure artistry. You can appreciate what you’re looking at as art, not just a visual means to a story. My eyeballs just loved watching this film.

Featuring the voice talents of Brendan Gleeson as Conor, and a bunch of other people who you probably have never heard of, Song of the Sea certainly has the independent film vibe. It only made $692,697 in the U.S. box office, but it’s clear that this film was made with a love for art and storytelling in mind. It’s very watchable for the entire family. Kids will latch on to the mysticism and magic, and parents will enjoy the visuals, just as I have. Truly a good movie.

Thumbs up.

Song of the Sea

What He said:


Ben (David Rawle) lives on a small island with his parents, where his father oversses a lighthouse. He is a very happy young boy who enjoys listening to stories his mother tells him about Irish folklore. She (his mother) is expecting another child and Ben is very happy about the thought of becoming a bit brother.

Song of the Sea

All of that is about to change though, as tragedy is about to strike. Bronagh (Lisa Hannigan), Ben’s mother, passes away during childbirth. She gives birth to a baby girl, who is named Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell). Both Ben and his father are never the same. Ben comes to resent his sister. He blames her for his mother’s death. Conor (Brendan Gleeson) never fully recovers. He loves his children, but there’s a sadness to him that never goes away.

One day Granny (I think it is Conor’s mother) comes to visit. She has tried to convince Conor to move to the mainland for years. She doesn’t think the island is fit for children.  She succeeds this time when Saoirse has an accident on the beach.

Let me take a step back for a few minutes. When Ben was a child, his mother used to tell him all kinds of stories about magic, faeries, and all kinds of other fantastical stuff from Irish folklore. What she leaves out is that she is actually one of these mythical creatures herself. She is a selkie.  A selkie is a creature that looks like a seal when in the ocean, but can look like a person when it comes onto dry land.

Unknown to Ben, Conor, and even Saoirse herself is that she is part selkie. She finds this out when she borrows a shell that Bronagh gave to Ben when he was a child. She blows into it and is able to make music come from it; due to her selkie heritage. The music attracts a miniscule group of faeries that leads her to a mysterious chest that is hidden away in a closet. She opens it and finds a brilliant white coat. The coat allows her to embrace her selkie side and turn into a seal when she enters the ocean.

Ok, back to the present. Ben and Saoirse are at Granny’s (Fionnula Flanagan) and they are utterly miserable.  Ben decides he’s breaking out of Granny’s and heading back to home, where his dog Cu currently remains. Saoirse decides to tag along, which makes him very unhappy. Along the way, they encounter creatures they never though existed and are tasked with a mission of great importance. They are tested as individuals, as well as their relationship with one another.

The She heard about this movie, because it was nominated for an Academy Award, amongst other things. It wasn’t out for rental yet when she heard this, so we decided to check out Carton Saloon’s other (fairly recent) animated feature, The Secret of Kells. We liked it quite a bit, so when the one that was nominated finally came out, we were ready to see it.
I thought this was an absolutely fantastic from top-to-bottom.

Song of the Sea

Like The Secret of Kells, I love that this movie manages to have both a simple, yet extremely intricate style animation. I’m sorry if that doesn’t make any sense, but that doesn’t make it any less true. This movie has parts that look very basic (not bad, but very simple) and others that are as gorgeous as something along the lines of a stained glass window. For example, the characters can give of a very minimalist look. Bruce Timm does something similar – minimalist, not necessarily the same look – in The Justice League. It works just fine on its own, but when you combine it with extremely detailed scenery and backgrounds, it really compliments it very well. I love a good hand-drawn animated movie, so it had that going for it, but I didn’t like this just because it was hand-drawn. I liked it because it was very appealing to the eyes.

I also happen to think it’s a really good story – and more specifically a good fairy tale. There was a real sense of adventure going on here. It was about two kids – and watching and underdog story always conveys a real sense of adventure to me – it was funny, and there is a long journey across many different landscapes; where they met many types of creatures and interesting characters. This movie was a fantastic fairy tale for the entire family.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on April 22, 2015.