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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Review: Animated Celtic yarn enchants


    Big Farm

    “Song of the Sea” is a visually stunning triumph. This animated masterpiece draws the viewer in and immerses them in an enchanted Celtic world. Nominated for this year’s Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, this adventure reinterprets Irish folklore to tell a modern story of loss and love. 

    Directed by Tomm Moore, whose “The Secret of Kells” was Oscar-nominated in 2009 for Best Animated Feature Film, “Song of the Sea” is a striking sophomore effort. Moore skillfully mixes the magical with the mundane and the fantastical with the everyday. Not dissimilar to Japan’s Hayao Miyazaki, Moore wields the complexities and poignancy of his culture to produce a tale accessible to all.

    Set in 1980s Ireland, “Song of the Sea” begins with a trope familiar to many animated children’s films: the death of a parent. This, however, is the only formulaic aspect of the film. Following the tragic and mysterious loss of their mother, siblings Ben and Saoirse live a life devoid of familial warmth. They make their home in a lighthouse off a stony beach somewhere in Ireland with their affectionate but emotionally distant father and their beloved sheepdog, Cu.

    When supernatural forces enter their lives that result in their removal from their father and home, Ben and Saoirse must work together to set things right. However, peculiar things are afoot, and long-forgotten legends lurk in the background of the plot. Through magic and mysticism, the siblings engage in a wild journey to reclaim their birthright.

    Rather than the dramatic and sometimes hectic style that dominates the animation industry, “Song of the Sea” subtly enchants in an unadorned fashion. While both whimsical and touching, this lore-soaked fiction is startlingly mature and expressive. Though the film’s PG rating would imply a childish plot of youthful abandon, it is anything but. “Song of the Sea” is rife with complex content and emotions, capable of engaging all ages.

    The imagery, music and plot need not beg for attention, for they can carry their own weight. The film’s soundtrack possesses a hauntingly beautiful body, which aligns perfectly with the already stunning animation and captivating dialogue.

    The vibrant visuals are essential. The action removes all concept of “Pixar pizzazz” and replaces it with masterful 2-D watercolor stills. Clean lines coincide with rich textures, which distinctly help set the film apart from others in its genre. The film’s artistic style allows the mystery and wonder of otherworldliness to be conveyed without hyperbole.

    Bright and lively, fresh but familiar, “Song of the Sea” is a tour de force of animation that weaves delicate threads of sibling malcontent and shared traumas into the tapestry of ancient myths. Moore underlines a connection between worlds, as well as a sense of wonder in the seemingly ordinary. With its genuine human connections, sense of restorative calm and moving Celtic musical score, it’s easy to see why “Song of the Sea” has made its way into the Oscar nominations. It bears a beautiful message that is delivered with soul and graceful visual grandeur. Undeniably, this is a must-see film of 2015.


    Follow Elise McClain on Twitter.

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