I was angry and disappointed when The Lego Movie failed to get even a nomination from The Academy Awards this past year, because it deserved to take home the trophy. In its place were a couple of movies no one had heard of, much less seen – Song of the Sea, and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (alongside Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, and How To Train Your Dragon 2). Of those, I was glad that Big Hero got the Oscar, but this was an unusual category for me, in that I hadn’t actually seen all of the nominees. Those two unknowns were impossible to see in theatres (at least here in Ottawa – and I did try, combed VOD, the works). A while ago I noticed that Song of the Sea was available through Google Play, and I meant to get around to it, but wasn’t in much of a rush since I’d been harbouring festering resentment toward it since January.
The truth is, this is not the movie that took a slot away from our beloved Legos. This movie deserved to be there.
Now, before we get started, let me warn you, this isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s rated PG, for some mild peril, and pipe smoking images. Do you think you can handle that? If not, better go call your mother right now, get some guidance, talk it out, see if she thinks you’re up to it.
Once upon a time, a little boy is soothed by the stories told to him by his mother. She’s expecting a baby and he can’t wait to be its big brother. But then a baby appears but mama disappears. Through the magic of movies, a few years elapse, and big brother is quite resentful of his little sister, subconsciously blaming her for his mother’s death. Their father is deep in his grief and unable to care of his children, so his mother takes them away, against their wishes, with only mom’s conch shell to remind them of home. Turns out, that conch shell can summon magic when it’s blown by little sister, who is a selkie like her mama (a selkie being a girl who can turn into a seal when she wears her special coat). I’m making this sound more complicated than it is, because it’s actually a very simply told little Irish myth.
The animation is hand-drawn and absolutely stunning. I was impressed from word go and it never stopped, was never less than amazing. I’ve never seen a traffic circle look so ethereal. It may lack the thousand digitally produced hairs, or 57 moving facial muscles, but their little faces remain quite expressive. Attention has been paid. The glowy, magical imagery makes you feel like you’re inside a Klimt painting, and there’s a timelessness about it that’s both comforting and inspired. There are no singing snowmen, or talking cars, or yellow sidekicks; this movie is pure, and heartfelt, and embodies a mastery that we haven’t seen in a long time (maybe since The Secret of Kells). It looks the way a warm blanket feels, totally enveloping, which I suppose is appropriate: curl up, and hear a fine tale.