The story of the last seal-child’s journey home.After their mother’s disappearance, Ben and Saoirse are sent to live with Granny in the city. When they resolve to return to their home by the sea, their journey becomes a race against time as they are drawn into a world Ben knows only from his mother’s folktales. But this is no bedtime story. It soon becomes clear to Ben that Saoirse is the key to their survival. Directed by Tomm Moore. 2015 Oscar Nominee for Animated Feature Film
As part of my gothy blogger adventures with Jade from Daughter of the Jaded Era, we attended a screening of Song of the Sea at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. for the Environmental Film Festival. Per their website, the Environmental Film Festival occurs each and includes over 150 films to an audience of over 33,000.
Song of the Sea was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Animated Feature Film of the Year.
It is an enchanting tale about the last of the Selkies (or in Irish folklore those who live as seals in the sea but become humans on land.) The tale is mostly told through the eyes of older brother Ben and the young Saoirse (seal girl) who is yet able to speak. Prior to that, viewers witness the loving relationship that Ben has with his mother. We are left to assume that her mother dies in childbirth but this is not clear because the family simply doesn’t talk about it. The children live with their father on a small island with a lighthouse by the sea. One night after Ben is frustrated with his little sister, he discovered that Saoirse has left the house. Viewers know that she has been led to the ocean by a group of seals. When the grandmother discovered that the young child was out alone, she insists that the children move to the city to live with her. After this, the story takes a travel literature approach with the children escaping their grandmother’s house and finding their way home. Along the way, there is a mystical coat that must be found along with numerous characters to encounter.
I found the story incredibly moving as did many other film goers since I shared my tissues. For starters, the film wasn’t Americanized—the father drinks at a bar when he is missing his wife (something we wouldn’t typically see in an animated film); the villains aren’t pure evil like we often sea. Macha, the Owl Witch, and her owls can be both creepy and scary but the story is complicated by her backstory which is actually included in this plot (i.e. we don’t have to wait for a retelling of a traditional tale from another perspective). I also enjoyed how some of the characters were turned to stone which could potentially frighten younger audiences.
While the characters are a bit cartoony, I found the visuals pleasant overall. There are many darker greys and blues throughout the film contrasted with the stark white Saoirse’s magical coat. I enjoyed the ending but it wasn’t the Disney happily-ever-after version which I especially enjoyed.
In the end, viewers are left with a tale of a girl literally and figuratively finding her voice, and about loved ones doing everything possible to protect loved ones.