Song of the Sea: NZFF Review
As enchanting and lovely as the Emerald Isle itself, Song of The Sea is an all ages affair, lovingly crafted from the mind of Tomm Moore.
Oscar nominated, this hand-drawn animated fare from the creator of the Book of Kells is the story of Ben (voiced by the ever brilliant David Rawle of Moone Boy fame), whose mother dies giving birth to his sister, Saoirse. Years later, with his alcoholic father (Brendan Gleeson) becoming more withdrawn and missing his mom's tales about the myths and legends that make up Ireland's rich tapestry, Ben, along with his Dulux dog Cu, has come to resent the mute Saoirse, and struggles to take on the bigger brother role he promised he'd do.
However, when Ben discovers his sister is a famed selkie, a creature of legend that becomes a seal in the water and a human on land and that she holds the key to bringing all the faeries home by singing, the pair is inextricably linked on an adventure that holds all of Ireland's culture - and yet their own future - in their hands.
Utterly charming, beautifully executed, and an emotional joy to behold, Song of The Sea is a richly resonant flick that has as much heart as it has love poured into the handheld animation.
Replete with greens, emeralds, opals and browns, the animation sings off the screen as it negotiates its story so steeped in legend that Song of the Sea is likely to become as mythical as Tir Na Nog. But it's the warmth, earnest and simple story coupled with nuanced characters that helps it to the echelons of animated classic, likely to rival anything from Ghibli - and likely to remind you of some of the recent machinations of Pixar's Inside Out.
Thanks to a beautiful mix of song and visuals, the family audience is well served at the NZIFF - certainly, the crowd I was with at the Civic was a mix of families on one last outing for the school holidays and with kids swept up and enthralled in the universality and simply told fable. At times, their eyes were as wide as those of Ben on screen, with a few scares from the animated owls in the film giving them a chance to bury themselves deep into parents for reassurance.
But it's Tomm Moore who deserves the most praise for Song Of The Sea.
Masterfully weaving a tale that's as steeped in legend and folktales as it is in the emotional bond of family, he's been extremely successful in creating something that's magical and delightful - it packs in the awe, but never loses sight of the emotion and intimacy - and that helps to rank it among the best.