It might be a little bit early to take a definitive stand on the matter, but I think Tomm Moore is to Ireland what Hayao Miyazaki is to Japan. In both cases, both artists provide the world with beautiful, unique films that are very representative of their specific culture. Watching a Tomm Moore film is taking a hike across the verdant hills of Connemara, encountering a playful sea lion in Howth, and peacefully driving near a herd of sheep. Tomm Moore has only made two feature-length movies so far, but both were Irish to the core, singing accents and mystical celtic music included. The first one, The Secret of Kells, dealt with the constant threat of the vikings to a catholic stronghold, while a young monk tried to reconcile his faith with the mystical roots of his culture. Song of the Sea is quite different.
Song of the Sea is the story of Ben, a little boy whose mother disappears one night, after giving birth to his sister Saoirse (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znCXvlhYV-Y), leaving both kids alone with their father on a lonely island off the shore of Ireland. Years later, on Saoirse’s birthday, Saoirse takes a mysterious coat from a trunk hidden in a closet and puts it on as she enters the sea. Unfortunately, her father finds her on the shore the next morning, pale and cold, and Saoirse and Ben’s grandmother decides to take them away to the city. When they get there, Ben is upset – he is upset with many things in his life, starting with his annoying little sister, and Saoirse soon becomes sick. There begins their journey home.
Honestly, I could just tell you the whole story. There’s not much to spoil since the plot is easy to follow – easy enough that if you’ve seen a trailer or a poster, you’ve probably guessed where this is going, both from a story and a thematic perspective. I chose not to say too much about what actually happens in the movie,- though, because Song of the Sea is not about twists and turns, but about the journey. The characters are endearing, starting with our two little protagonists. Saoirse is the closest thing to a mute character that I’ve seen in ages, but she doesn’t need to talk to be adorable and, yes, kind of kickass in her own way. I’m not only saying that because I am someone’s younger, awkward sibling myself, but it certainly made Saoirse easier to relate to for me. Not to say that I had a hard time understanding Ben’s struggles. After all, he is a very little boy when his mother goes away and all she leaves behind is a stinky baby. Does Saoirse deserve his wrath? Not really. Is he crueller to her than any troubled older brother? Not in a million years. The whole film is about Ben opening up to Saoirse, while Saoirse herself learns to be stronger. Their relationship is not without its hard passes, but it’s a very sweet one. And it’s not counting the grandmother, the father, all the creatures they encounter on their way home and, of course, Ben and Saoirse’s mother herself.
The creatures are particularly worth talking about. I mentioned that Tomm Moore’s films are Irish to the core. Well, both of his features are a guide through Ireland’s folklore. Ireland is not only about leprechauns and beer. Ireland is the land of old witches and heartbroken giants, where seals can take off their fur coats to wander among people and a song can bring a stone to life. And this they do for our joy and wonder, to a soundtrack so good that not only have I mentioned it twice, I am also listening to it while writing.
Song Of The Sea is a poetic quest that is best left discovered by oneself, preferably with a box of tissues. It is aimed at a younger audience, but adults will enjoy it all the same. It’s a beautiful piece of art, and it is more than worth your time.
– Anais L