When a mother passes away, she is survived by her bereaved husband (Brendan Gleeson) and young children Ben (David Rawle) and Saoirse, the latter of which is a selkie; which in Irish folklore is a fairy, drawn to the sea. As a result, she is taken to live with her grandmother (Fionnula Flanagan) in the city, but when she meets three of the few remaining fairies left, she becomes aware that in order to free all of her people, she must sing her selkie song, which is asking quite a lot of a child who has never once spoken.
First and foremost, Song of the Sea makes for a glorious, visual experience – with a unique, hand-crafted animation style, that is intricately drawn. In the background there are swirls and randomly placed fanciful imagery, enhancing the enchantment that exists, to make for a mesmerising piece – free of any contrived whimsicality. The aesthetic is matched by a film bearing so much pathos and heart, sincere and intimate in its depiction. It may be surreal and fantastical, but at its core it’s about the relationship between this family, focusing in on a widowed father, and the two siblings, which is wonderfully judged, as we see this older brother be both jealous and protective over his little sister.
This congenial animation may be somewhat unconventional, but children should respond to this nonetheless – and if not, parents most certainly will. It plays heavily on traditionalism, on tales we were all told when young, now coming to life, arousing the blissful nature in all of us.