Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Ireland/Denmark/Belgium/Luxembourg/France, 2014. , , , , , , , . Story by , Screenplay by . Produced by , Tomm Moore, , , . Music by . Production Design by . Film Editing by , . Academy Awards 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
A little boy named Conor is devastated by the disappearance of his mother, a memory of childhood that he has sublimated into rage for the little sister who was born at the same time of this loss. As little Saoirse grows on their idyllic island under the care of their gruff but angry lighthouse-keeper father (voiced by ), the boy holds on to his mother’s memory by writing down the folk tales he remembers her telling him. When life at home gets too complicated, the children are sent to live with their opinionated grandmother ( ), but it is not long before Conor runs away and his sibling chases directly after him. The voyage back to his home island, where he hopes to be reunited with his beloved dog, is also one of discovery in which Conor realizes that the legendary creatures of his mother’s stories are not imagined but real, and that what he always suspected was a familial connection with selkies (human-sea lion combinations) is not just in his imagination. Using the dazzling woodcut-style animation that marked his Secret of Kells, this follow-up by Tomm Moore hits a deeper note than his previous entry, never trivializing the characters by trying to make them cute but achieving a sense of their humanity despite there being no attempt at realism in the drawing. A central sequence involving an owl witch is breathtaking, while the conclusion draws genuine tears. A lovely film that combines a sense of visual poetry with an absorbing narrative and endearing characters.