Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fairy Tale Media Fix: Song of the Sea.

What’s this?  What’s this?  Another movie review so soon after the Cinderella one? 

Well, this is a special case and stems from some miraculous fortune.  I’m driving down the streets of Albany when I spot on my left Albany’s resident independent movie theater the Spectrum 8 Theatres.  I glance at the marquee as I pass by and what should I see but the words “Song of the Sea”.  Seeing as I rarely get the chance to review these smaller released films, I saw this as a rare opportunity (Besides, things were starting to get far too Disney around here).

Now, if you’ve been following Gypsy Thornton’s Once Upon a Blog, you know she’s been talking about Song of the Sea for a little while.  So, if you want some more media-savvy material about it and to see some stellar images from the movie, click HERE (sadly, I have no images from the film myself.  I don’t use an image service like some bloggers do).

For those who don’t know, Song of the Sea is based on Irish folklore about the Selkie.  Selkies are magical beings who swim in the ocean in the form of seals but will come onto land and take off their seal-coats and become beautiful women. 

The movie features a young boy named Ben who lives in a lighthouse with his father.  Years ago, his mother disappeared into the ocean, leaving a newborn little girl named Saorsie.  His father, struggles with the loss of his wife.  Ben tries to hold onto the memory of his mother through the stories and songs that she left behind while at the same time struggling with the frustration of dealing with his younger sister.  Meanwhile, Saorsie, at 6 years old remains a mystery as she still hasn’t said a single word.  One night, Saiorsie is led to a locked chest by some glowing lights where she finds a glistening white coat.  From there, she heads toward the ocean where she meets a group of seals that lead her into the water where she turns into a seal herself.  The next morning, Saorsie and Ben’s visiting grandmother finds her washed up on the beach and forces their father to make them move to the city with her.  From there, Ben decides to run away back home with Saorsie in tow, discovering along the way that there’s far more to his sister than he expected and also realizing that he has to face his fears and his feelings about his sister and the loss of his mother.

This movie was fantastic!  One of the best uses of Irish lore I’ve seen on the screen  (admittedly, my experience is limited).

Now, keep in mind that not all folk tales are fairy tales.  There’s a difference.  Most of the selkie stories I know don’t end so much with “They all lived happily ever after” as often as they end with “and he never saw her again”.  So, be prepared for a wide range of emotions when you watch this.  The movie is magical, mysterious, funny and a bit melancholy all at the same time.  However, this is fitting when you consider the wide breadth of human emotions the old Irish tales often embraced.  In fact, one of the central themes of the movie seems to be that it’s better to feel something bad than nothing at all because feeling nothing is akin to being turned into a rock.

If you’re a mythology buff, you may want to keep an ear open for some familiar names.  In Irish folklore, the names of old Celtic mythical figures often get repurposed as saints, fairies, witches and giants.  The giant Mac Lir, for example, is derived from the sea god Lir.  The witch Macha has the same name as one of the incarnations of Morrigan the Celtic goddess of war.

I highly recommend watching Song of the Sea.  The story is well-crafted.  The art style is distinctive yet simple enough to allow for smooth animation.  The voice actors also do a terrific job.  It’s not your usual, wide-released animated film, but it’s not trying to be.  So, keep an eye on your local independent theater or look for the DVD that was just released.  I think you’ll be glad that you did.


  1. Tomm Moore's last animated feature, The Secret of Kells, is one of the most gorgeous films I've ever seen, so I'm really looking forward to seeing this new one. Thankfully my cable company just put it On Demand, so I'll try to catch it sometime this week.

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