Song Of The Sea – Review ****

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In case you missed it, the summer blockbuster season is upon us. The movies around at the moment seem to be all about being bigger, flashier and more sensationalist – especially with the summer holidays right round the corner (because of course, if you are not targeting the kids by any means, you are seriously missing a trick ). In the midst of this shouting contest, however, sometimes the way to stick out is not to shout louder than the rest, but to be quiet and elegant. A good contrast works just as well – if not better – when it comes to attracting attention .

And this is what Song of the Sea is all about. Director Tomm Moore has taken a classic Celtic legend, adapted it spectacularly to modern times and made an Oscar worthy animation out of it. Understated on the big action sequences yet beautifully drawn and full of emotion across the board, Song of the Sea is set to be a must see for audiences both young and old…

The hero of our story is Saoirse. She is nearly six but she is a strange little girl because she still cannot talk. She lives with her older brother Ben, their father and their dog Cu in a lighthouse far far away. Their mother died long ago on Saoirse’s birthday which means their Dad is rather sad a lot of the time – but their life is all in all a happy one, even though Ben refuses point blank to get on with Sairose. But on the night of Sairose’s sixth birthday extraordinary things begin to happen. Ben and Sairose go on a magical adventure where they discover there is more to the story of their mother that meets the eye, and that Sairose may well hold the key for the salvation of the entire spirit world…

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First up, I was simply blown away by the aesthetic beauty of the film. Of course cinema is a visual medium and the visual is an integral part of the enjoyment the film provides. But where a lot of films this season are going for extraordinary special effects, monsters and “loud” films in general, Song of the Sea goes for sensitive and beautiful pictures. The world created is comfortably close to our own with extraordinary characters and events sprinkled through. It grips the viewers and drags them down the rabbit hole straight away – I was hooked from the second minute onwards and I could clearly see the multiple children around me in the screening staring in awe and enchantment.

The film is based loosely on the legend of the Selkies, a race of men and women who can shed their seal skins and walk on land as humans. For those who know the legends, they are of course softened quite a lot. Although the Selkie skins (coats in the film) are present, the film gently side-steps the bit about the human who possesses the Selkie coat having power over the Selkie – which all in all is for the best, this being a children’s film. The bit of the legend where once the Selkie has turned back from human to seal they cannot make contact with their human family again, is referenced but gently. It is more a matter of accepting this and then checking out the details of the legend later; it is not “clearly explained”. Then again, do we really want our magical worlds explained to death? Isn’t that the beauty of magic in the first place?

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The other wonderful thing about the film is the way it combines the fantasy of a children’s film with serious and valid themes and messages that not only children but quite a few adults would do well heeding. We are told that it is bad to bottle up emotions – the good and the bad live in us for a reason and we must look them squarely in the face and deal with them if we want to have a truly happy life. Another key to happiness lies in finding where we truly belong. It may not be where you initially thought it would be. But, to paraphrase the film slightly, if you do not find your own song and sing it – you will never be truly free. I had goose bumps in some places and tears in my eyes in others. And all of these messages are given in a wonderful, gentle way that will be easy for the younger viewers to absorb. Oh how far we have come from the days of didactic preaching that breaks away from the story – most often at the end of the story, in the shape of a moral lesson! And the messages conveyed – how to be happy and truly free, are not necessarily how to be “obedient” and “good”.

Anyone who so much has a sliver of their inner child left should go see Song of the Sea. It is well worth every single accolade it receives. It is a wonderful film for the little ones too, perfect for the more sensitive souls that are not necessarily big fans of explosions and monsters – and has the bonus of providing a gentle introduction to the world of Celtic legends, a world well worthy of exploration in itself…

Song of the Sea will be released in UK cinemas July 10th.

A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Sedef moved to London three years ago to get her MA in Film Studies and never quite got round to going back home. As she once worked in a DVD company and watched films for a living, she started a personal blog (essiespeaks.blogspot.com) as a short answer to being constantly asked “watched anything interesting recently?” and loved blogging so much she just kept typing . She is the biggest Tarantino fan she knows and would be unable to choose a single film of his as a favourite.