Recommended Viewing Situation:

In your lighthouse, staring out into the ocean, waiting for creatures from between the here and between the now.

Running time: 94 minutes.

Format: Animation.

Director: Tomm Moore.

Writer: Will Collins and Tomm Moore.

Awards: Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Film and more.

 

If you want to watch something utterly moving, without the conventional emotional rhetoric, or polemic notions of overcoming sadness in the face of adversity, this is the film for you. Song of The Sea 2015 (or to give it its original Gaelic name, Amhrán na Mara), written by Will Collins and directed by Tomm Moore, is the heartwarming story of Ben (David Rawle) and his mute sister Saoirse and their journey back to the lighthouse that they once called home.

Inspired by Gaelic legends such as the great Manannán mac Lir and the Goddess Macha, this animated film is a healthy mix of magical fantasy and biting realism. The animation style is distinct and well suited to the explorations of pathos and whimsy that constantly shadow the narrative. It is colourful, vibrant, malleable and yet distinctly sharp at times; a wholly unique aesthetic, created by the Irish animation studio, Cartoon Saloon. Co-founded by Moore himself, these now animation mainstays have lent their hands to projects ranging from the BBC to Luc Vinciguerra’s French Australian animation, L’Apprenti Père Noel 2010. My personal favourite from their back catalogue, the short film The Ledge-End of Phil (from accounting) 2013. The voicing of the film is equally triumphant, with a cast ranging from Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges 2008 and Suffragette 2015) to musician Lisa Hannigan and the always-memorable Fionnula Flanagan (Yes Man 2008). However, it is not just the cast that makes this film so touching. The soundtrack, and indeed the sound design throughout is brilliantly chosen and paced by French composer Bruno Coulais and folk band Kíla.

Certain fantastical sequences, such as Macha the Owl Queen and visiting The Great Seanachai, will allude to the film’s dénouement and many could quite confidently pre-suppose the twist at the end. However, the most important and beautiful facet of this film is its ability to engross you. So deeply you will fall into the ‘realities’ of the narrative, you will forget all interpretations you first had and all ability to foresee its finale. The very human contemplations of the characters, whether spoken of or not, invite the audience into a discussion that has no easy answers. Suggestions of alcoholism, depression and the realities of grief are handled deftly, with elegance, but are not devalued or rarefied. As it stands, both of Moore’s feature works, Song of the Sea (2014) and The Secret of Kells (2009) have been nominated for Academy Awards, a sure sign of great things to come from this soon to be animation giant.

-Matthew Iredale