By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the midst of this era of high-tech, computer-animated, 3-D moviemaking we find ourselves in, here’s a work of low-tech, 2-D animation that enthralls.

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Deservedly nominated for the Oscar for best animated feature, Song of the Sea is a beautifully hand-drawn supernatural adventure, a fabulous fable for viewers of all ages.

 

(3½ stars out of 4!)

(3½ stars out of 4!)

 

Steeped in Irish folklore, it’s based on the legend of the selkies, mythical creatures who can take the form of a human on land or a seal in the ocean, and who sing a magical song.

The film tells the story of a motherless brother and sister who go on a race-against-time journey to find the girl’s voice so that she can sing and help save the spirit world so that it doesn’t disappear while helping to repair a family severely damaged by the loss of a loved one.

Brendan Gleeson provides the voice of Conor, a lighthouse keeper in contemporary Ireland whose wife, Bronagh (voiced by Lisa Hannigan), is about to give birth to their second child, Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell), soon to be the younger sister of Ben (David Rawle).

Saoirse is born healthy, but Bronagh passes away during the delivery.

As the years go by, with Conor remaining overcome with grief, Ben ignores Saoirse and she refuses to speak.

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On her sixth birthday, Saiorse takes the shell flute that was her mother’s last gift to Ben and, not for the first time, wanders silently into the sea. She wanders out far enough to drown, but doesn’t, discovering a secret about herself and her place in the supernatural world that she shared with her late mother.

When Saoirse finally returns to land, her concerned grandmother, voiced by Fionnula Flanagan, whisks the two kids away to the city, leaving the dazed Conor behind.

Animated movies rarely kick off in a sad, grief-stricken mode as this one does.  But the magic of this bittersweet piece, which treats sadness and grief as a natural part of life, is that it builds to a joyous, satisfying resolution, evoking fully earned emotions.

Elegantly simple and enormously affecting, Song of the Sea deals in family dynamics and the importance of expressing feelings in a way that should speak to members of any generation.

Director Tomm Moore, co-director of 2010’s Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells, also contributed the story that Will Collins turned into a screenplay.  His lushly animated, emotionally three-dimensional work puts one in mind of the animated features of Japanese director Haya Miyakazi such as Spirited Away.

And that’s the highest of compliments.

So let’s sing the praises of 3½ stars out of 4 for Song of the Sea, a charming, resonant, enchanting work of animation for families about a family mystery, full of fear and wonder and love.

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