Sunday 14 December 2014

Song of the Sea Review - Moore of This, Please

Too rarely these days a traditional animated feature presents itself to us. In a world where CGI is king, Ghibli is no more and only a few stop-motion flicks make it through, a hand-drawn film is a much-needed breath of fresh air - not that there's anything wrong with CGI.
So, why wouldn't you be excited for Song of the Sea? It's new, it's different, it's great. More after the break.

Inspired by Celtic folklore, Song of the Sea is a fantasy film directed by Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells) and written by Will Collins. Ben and Saoirse - a boy and his unable-to-speak younger sister - are living in a lighthouse with their father. Ben has been raised on magical tales told by his mother before she mysteriously disappeared the day Saoirse was born. One day, the two siblings are forced to leave the lighthouse and they find themselves on a perilous journey back. But it looks like Saoirse is not just any ordinary girl...

The first thing that hits you when you watch Song of the Sea is the beautiful artistry. After a sumptuous and dream-like introduction sequence, the film finds a more grounded approach, yet remains one-of-a-kind looking. The characters are designed with simple shapes but are appealing and interesting to look at. Even more interesting is the way Tomm Moore plays with perspective. That's something he already did on The Secret of Kells, but it seems like he's upped his game since. It's more nuanced, more elegant. The world of Song of the Sea seems more coherent and believable than The Secret of Kells.

While at first you may be thinking that nothing will hit you harder that the gorgeousness of the movie, you soon realize you could be wrong. The most surprising punch in Song of the Sea may actually come from its moving and deeper-than-it-first-seems story.
The plot progresses somewhat slowly at first, mainly to get us engaged in the characters - which later pays off. It's still entertaining, often poetic and usually unexpected; that's another nice thing about Song of the Sea: for most of the film, you don't know what's going to happen next. You're not quite sure where the story is heading. So that's all very nice. Not ground-breaking, but nice.

Then though, the film reaches a point near the end of the second act when it all becomes clear. You suddenly realize how evident and luminous the theme is: Song of the Sea is a tale about grief. It was always there, but this moment is such a striking one that you then see the whole film differently; you see how clever it truly is. 
I wouldn't call it a twist since it's not that, really; it's simply the story coming full circle.

A film called Song of the Sea had to have a memorable soundtrack; also, feature the sea. Both are true, and the song part of the title is appropriate, as the score is a particularly catchy one - and that's saying something if you know how hard it is for me to even notice the music on a first viewing. Bruno Coulais and Irish band Kìla do a remarkable job here - even if you could argue Coulais hits very close to his Coraline score.

All in all, there's really no reason to miss Song of the Sea - unless you live in one of the many countries where the movie hasn't been released yet. It's poetic, moving and you won't see another film like it every other year.


  1. If you're put off this film because of the style of animation don't be!! I was too at the start but it was well worth 2 hours of my life.

  2. Yes, it's a wonderful film. My second favourite animated movie of '14, after The LEGO Movie.

  3. It's a shame I've only just managed to watch this film well after 2014 and awards season because this was seriously the best animated film of 2014. Like how the hell did BH 6 win the oscar over this masterpiece! Definite proof that oscar voters probably skip the best films and just voted for the most popular ones.
    The animation was spectacular,they were moments in this that felt like I was watching a Miyazaki film, specifically the owl witch segment, which is really saying something. The story definitely tug at my heartstrings more than HTTYD 2 or any other 2014 animated film for that matter.
    I'm probably rambling due to just finished watching this film and my thought are in a jumbled mess right now because of my excitement for this film.

  4. It's kind of a shame the film didn't get more recognition, yes. But as Tomm Moore pointed, the nomination is already something and will help him move forward with his next project.