March 22nd, 2015

Firechick's Movie Reviews: Song of the Sea

I give this beautiful Irish film...a 90/100!

For a very long while, I had assumed anime would be the only form of cartoons I could ever enjoy. I grew out of many of my favorite childhood shows such as Rugrats, CatDog, Hey Arnold, Powerpuff Girls, Dexter's Laboratory, etc. and hardly any of the new shows that appeared on TV looked any good to me, like Amazing World of Gumball, Uncle Grandpa, Jimmy Two Shoes, Breadwinners, Teen Titans Go, etc. I didn't think animators from the US or other countries other than Japan had any motivation anymore to make genuinely good movies with compelling storylines, three dimensional characters, or anything resembling a plot that DIDN'T involve pointless slapstick comedy thrown in for the sake of slapstick comedy. To this day I haven't seen the entirety of Code Lyoko because CN canceled it in favor of bad live action programming, and I'm not the only one who notices the drop in animation quality in anything of recent years either. Thankfully, there are still some hidden gems to be mined from the mountains of excrement that surround us. Now, I had NEVER seen or even heard of this movie until early last year, and that was because someone mentioned it was nominated for best animated film for the Oscars of that year. Then I noticed it was made by the same people who made The Secret of Kells, which I haven't seen but heard good things about. I didn't think it'd interest me, yet...watching the trailer convinced me otherwise, and as soon as I heard it was showing in my local theaters, I knew I had to see it. Thankfully, it renewed my faith in Western animation.

The story takes place in the 1980s, and a boy named Ben and his family are excited for the birth of his new sibling. But when his mother, Bronagh, mysteriously disappears on a dark, stormy night without explanation, he is left with a grieving father and a little sister, Saoirse (pronounced Seer-shuh), who is mute. Six years later, still conflicted by his mother's disappearance, Ben often mistreats Saoirse, silently blaming her for his mother's disappearance. When their grandmother forcibly takes them to the city, Ben is determined to go back home and be with his faithful friend, a big sheep dog named Cu (Coo). However, the night before the moving showed a revelation. Quiet little Saoirse is in fact a selkie (a mythological humanoid who is capable of shapeshifting into a seal when making contact with a large body of water). So now, brother and sister must work together, not just to get back home, but also to rescue a dying world filled with beings that Ben knows about only from his mother's stories. But he needs to overcome his darkest fears and she needs to find her voice (metaphorically and literally speaking).

I didn't think Western animation would interest me anymore. I had lost so much faith in it that I was convinced anime had the only good animation in the world anymore. Thankfully, my fears were put at ease when I saw Song of the Sea, and I must admit, the simplistic animation paired up with the colorful backgrounds, layers of frames lying on each other, and an interesting choice of background drawings is just absolutely beautiful. The animation is wonderfully fluid, and there's always something going on, whether it's in the background or in the forefront of the movie. Even little details people would normally not pay attention to are given luscious attention, such as Ben's bedroom, their grandmother's house, forests, oceans, cities, fine details such as writing on the walls, all of which actually foreshadow and are important to certain events in the movie. Whoever animated this really knew what he wanted, and put in all of their effort to make it a luscious animated experience. Of course, since the movie is about the ocean, the ocean sequences are obviously just as beautiful, and that pretty much says a lot about both the movie and the people behind it.

The music and the songs are just as good. Since this is an Irish/French movie, there's a lot of Irish folk songs that are sung in Irish. They're pretty good for the most part, but since some parts are sung in Irish, and there's no song subtitles unlike in anime DVDs most of the time, I couldn't understand them or figure out their place in the movie. But that doesn't make them bad. All the other songs are very good, and the music fits the atmosphere of the movie very well. Very soft wind instruments, operatic singing, subtle orchestral bits, and other sounds really bring out the emotion in their assigned scenes, and really, since the movie is about music according to the creator, whoever he hired to do the music does an amazing job at bringing out the movie's best with the music.

(more to come soon)