Song Of The Sea has been gaining traction in the past few months. Originally being shown at the Toronto Film Festival in 2014 and then being nominated for Best Animation at the 2014 Academy Awards, it has only started its public cinema run in the UK. Does it live up to the hype?
Song Of The Sea is directed by Tomm Moore and stars David Rawle, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flannagan, and Lisa Hannigan. The story follows Ben (Rawle) and his mute sister Saorise as they go on a mystical adventure filled with Irish folklore creatures in a bid to find out what happened to their mother, who disappeared the night Saorise was born.
Song Of The Sea deserves its nomination for Best Animation at the Oscars. The 2D animation is striking and beautiful with subtle hints of Studio Ghibli’s more esoteric works, the cartoon designs from The Legend Of Zelda and the cutout silhouettes from Wes Anderson’s films. It can’t be stated enough that the film is mesmerising and I can’t think of an animated film so recently that the animation on its own blew me away.
The story is heavily rooted within Irish folklore with selkies, fairies, giants, and the odd animal deity coming in and out of the film to either help or hinder our protagonists. This is where the animation shines, giving us these fantastical creatures that wouldn’t look anywhere near as good if it was all CGI. Even the homes and houses of these creatures such as the selkie underwater neighbourhood or the owl house that features later on in the film are lovingly put together with some standout scenes and sets.
Even so, the story is a very clichéd and overdone one; a story of young child going off on an adventure and trying to find an absent parent. It is a story that Studio Ghibli has been doing variations on for a while, but here in Song Of The Sea it is beautifully told and has several emotional punches. There was around three times where I welled up due to the story and portrayal of the characters with the last ten minutes serving a real emotional blow that is sure not to leave a dry eye in the cinema. It is a story that everyone can relate to, whatever age they are.
The film is full of great Irish actors. Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan are both excellent in their dual roles, playing both the father and grandmother of Ben and Saorise as well as the films interpretations of the Ancient Irish folk heroes. Two small roles for the Irish comics Pat Shortt and Jon Kenny as two parts of a trio of musical playing fairies are fun to watch and to listen to. But the greatest praise must go to David Rawle for his portrayal of the young boy Ben. For a young actor it is a challenge to carry nearly a whole film on his own, but Rawle manages to do it with a sincere and heartfelt portrayal of an older brother trying to help his younger sister.
The score, created by Bruno Koulais and Kila (with many songs being sung by the voice cast as well), is near constantly played throughout the film, but it never gets old or repetitive. Apart from the odd verse nearly all of the songs are sung in Irish which adds to the ethereal quality of the film. The best song though is the lullaby rendition of the main theme that plays over the credits. It is well worth staying through the credits just to hear this amazing song which is sung by the French singer Nolwenn Leroy.
In summary, Song Of The Sea is a great-animated feature, beautifully crafted and heartfelt in its story and characters. This is definitely not one to miss.
Score: 10/10 Destined for classic status.