Monday, March 02, 2015

Song of the Sea

My original plan over the weekend was to see this back to back with Paddington on Saturday, which would have been a pretty darn good afternoon of window-shipping for potential things to get my nieces for their birthdays and/or Christmas. It didn't work out that way, though - the times on Saturday were just to right even if the theaters were just for stops apart on the Red Line - which made for two weirdly parallel double features: Paddington & Maps to the Stars on Saturday and Song of the Sea & What We Do in the Shadows on Sunday. Not necessarily the order is recommend, although the day is seldom set up to give you a cute-movie chaser after the mean-spirited one.

It's a pretty delightful little movie, at least. Maybe one for my oldest niece, although the fairies she likes are more the cute little winged ones as opposed to the wide range from Irish folklore. Most adults with an appreciation for mythology and folklore should enjoy it too; it's a cute movie, but not one that feels like it has had its edges worn off.

It was kind of fun to see this one at Kendall Square, in that you seldom see kids there and they tend to liven up a somewhat serious crowd. The flip side is that the theater has no idea what previews to run before the movie - or, more likely, not much on the preview server that is really appropriate. I, as a kid, might have enjoyed the Amazing Randi documentary, but that's really kind of it. It was no wonder that a boy behind me started grumbling for the movie to start just two or so in.

Later on, I wondered how he might have reacted to the White God trailer. Kids like dogs and scary stories, right?

Song of the Sea

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 1 March 2015 in Landmark Kendall Square #4 (first-run, DCP)

There have generally been one or two movies like Song of the Sea among the nominees every year since the Oscars started giving out an award for best animated feature, and they're the best argument for the award's existence. No, this smaller film from Ireland that relatively few voters had seen had little chance to win, but being nominated makes it easier for it to get noticed later. That's when people notice it and realize that it's terrific.

It starts on a small island, where lighthouse-keeper Conor (voice of Brendan Gleeson) and his wife Bronagh (voice of Lisa Hannigan) are expecting their second child, but as they put four-year-old Ben to bed, it is clear that something is not right. Jump ahead six years, and is clear that Ben (voice of David Rawle) resents his sister Saoirse, who has not yet learned to talk. A scare at Saoirse's birthday party has Conor send the children to live in Dublin with their grandmother, an action that both reveals a greater destiny for Saoirse and means she may need more help than Ben and their dog Cu can give to fulfill it.

Saoirse, it turns out, is a selkie, one of the many sorts of faeries to be found in Celtic myth (though human on land, they become seals when they enter the water with their special coats). Director Tomm More and screenwriter William Collins embrace their homeland's rich mythology, and not just by building the story around it. Ben lives and clings to the stories his mother told, making him a refreshing outlier in a genre where the hero must often start out as cynical and then embrace his heritage. It lets the filmmakers introduce new elements casually, without having to go through the effort of convincing Ben and the audience anew each time, and also means that when Ben is stymied by the things that would present challenges to a ten-year-old boy, it does not seem like small potatoes compared to witches and monsters.

Full review on EFC

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