There is a quiet beauty that permeates through every frame of Song of the Sea. Rising from the painterly animation that seems to have dropped away from animated films in recent years, through to the smooth easy listening rolling of the Irish accent of the cast that voice the characters, Song of the Sea is nothing but beautiful. It’s beautiful in its ability to tell a tale that is timeless, but also timely.
Song of the Sea opens with young Ben (David Rawle) being told a story by his pregnant. Moments later, young Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell) is born. (Thanks to this film, I now know how to pronounce Saoirse and boy is it a beautiful name that rolls off your tongue – if only I had an Irish accent to say it with.) Unfortunately, Ben and Saorise’s mother passes away during the birth and they’re both left to be raised by their father Conor (Brendan Gleeson embodying the huge brute with the amount of humanity you’d expect from an actor like Gleeson). Raising two children on an island with a light house proves difficult, especially whilst he grieves for his wife – enter his mother, Granny (Fionnula Flanagan) to come and set things right and make sure that Ben and Saoirse are raised properly.
See, part of the reason for Granny’s arrival is it’s Saorise’s sixth birthday and she still hasn’t started talking yet. To go into the reason behind Saorise’s lack of voice is to spoil what is a wonderful exploration of emotions, fairy tales and looking at grief – especially from a childs perspective.
Watching Song of the Sea after seeing Inside Out (and having to weather the barrage of praise that that film has gotten) it’s hard not to compare the two films. It’s also hard not to see that Song of the Sea deals with the subject of emotions a lot better than Inside Out ever wishes it could. This is not to say that Inside Out is not a good film, it is; it’s just that Song of the Sea‘s portrayal of emotions doesn’t rely on the notion that your emotions are out of your control. Where Inside Out shows five different emotions ruling the house inside a young girls mind, Song of the Sea shows a world where negative emotions are stolen away and bottled up, with positive emotions being the only ones allowed in the world.
There is a great reinforcement here that negative emotions can be beneficial to people, especially with helping them process grief over the loss of a loved one. Song of the Sea does go to lengths to point out that this is not just children who need to learn to not bottle up their emotions, showing that adults as well fall victim to not addressing their negative emotions.
If this all sounds heavy and deep, well, it is at times exactly that. And that’s exactly why it’s a must see film. There are some truly wonderful and enchanting songs here that help with levity at times – as well as a big oaf of a hound named Cu and some exceptionally cute seals – but it is still a film that will have you reaching for the tissues. And that’s ok for a kids film. It’s films like Song of the Sea that helps address the always positive nature of kids films. After years of bright and always chipper films, it’s nice to see the trend sway towards including some darker elements in kids films – elements that I grew up with in films like Aladdin or Pinocchio.
At the screening I watched, there was a young girl who was watching the film with her Dad and at a certain point in the film she stood up in tears and sat in his lap. Now, I’ll try not empart a story about this young girl, but I do feel that when she grows up that Song of the Sea will be a film that she will look back on and remember fondly in the same way that I remember Pinocchio or Aladdin. This really is a stunning film that I can’t wait to revisit on Bluray.