Such a delightful and lovely film, this Irish animation is packed full of family friendly ideas and charmingly spun drawings. I’m beyond glad I finally got myself round to watching this film and it deserved the Oscar attention it got, quite a shame it didn’t win actually as it’s inventive, smart and moving.
Ben (David Rawle) finds himself increasingly annoyed by mute sister Saoirse and after being packed up and sent away to live with his grouchy gran, he realises there’s more to his sibling than meets the eye. Saoirse may in fact be closer to Ben’s childhood stories than imagined and based around the Celtic myth of the selkie, a tale of growing care develops.
I don’t want to say too much more as it can spoil the surprises of what genuinely gorgeous things occur throughout the film. One is a quite obvious event concerning a seal but still it’s sort of magical to watch. The film is like a cartoon Greek quest, the mythical element playing loud and clear as Ben and Saoirse journey along trying to save figures from doom. It might not be fiercely epic, but it’s contained and clever in the plot it puts across, like a fable it looks like a storybook coming to life and that’s honestly wonderful to see.
It also has that touch of ‘Coraline’ about it, slightly playing on darker nuances to spook the children and keep older folk engrossed. The other mother may be gone but a frighteningly looming owl witch more than makes up for that villainous spot. Saoirse herself is like an intelligent and playful version of Coraline and as she crawls through a tree tunnel the visual itself looks like a Henry Selick snapshot. In general, this film is more heartfelt and oddly tense than I thought it would be.
Tomm Moore directs his own story with calm flair, the depth of the tale doing more than enough to fill the 90 minute run time. He certainly brings his story alive with the way the animation looks, eye-catching and entrancing, you find yourself drawn into the fantasy world without wanting to flinch. The end may be sickly sweet and the first ten minutes might be a little slow but they’re the only sore points in what is quite frankly a stunning movie.
I have to write about the animation, it’s marvellous and captivating and spell binding. Little noticeable flourishes in the lines and swirls filling the background to neat owl motifs in the pylons are two examples of how great this film looks to the eye. The perspectives and circles of scenery, the fantastical design of characters with stony faces or whirling hair and the backgrounds all do their dazzling bit to make this film stand out as unique.
The music by Kila and Bruno Coulais is soothing and compliments the soft side of the film wonderfully, the vocal work fits the characterisation just right, even if the bratty side of Ben becomes more and more annoying. Brendan Gleeson sticks true as the go to Irish actor and plays Ben’s father, Conor with enough heart to not take away attention but still like him.
A must see at least just to catch something new. I can’t say anything more than summing it up as simply beautiful.