My child berated me the other day for not showing her enough Disney films when she was younger.
I said she could watch them now, as she is old enough for them not to have any adverse effects on her.
OK, that’s probably a bit unfair, and I don’t mind Disney films as much as I used to when I was an angry and idealistic (and slightly annoying) young person. But it is weird to live in a world where Disney puts out any random tat and has it gross millions of dollars, while Song of the Sea, which is probably the best animated film I have ever seen, played to five people on the afternoon I saw it.
Song of the Sea is an Oscar nominated Irish animation about a boy called Ben who lives on an island in a lighthouse with his mum and dad. One night his pregnant mum disappears, leaving behind a baby girl, who Ben and his father name Saoirse. As Saoirse grows up, she becomes worryingly drawn to the sea, to the extent that Ben’s grandmother comes and takes the children away from the island because of the danger that she perceives.
Ben and Saoirse escape, and the rest of their film follows their journey back to the island.
There are so many things that make this a great film. It looks and sounds beautiful. It’s properly artistic in the sense that it draws out and emphasises with its visual and aural effects the most striking parts of each landscape – the wet bruised looking clouds, the confusion of the city, the winding of the country roads. Isn’t that so much better than a Disney-fied world where everything is flat and bright and where even the faces follow a formula??
The story itself draws on a lot of tradition about Irish myths and stories, using them as a background. Mythical characters people the narrative, but their actions and attitudes also parallel the lives of the “real” characters. The interaction between the family members is very honest and humorously done – Ben’s attitude towards his sister is both loving and resentful, and there was a real core of sadness that didn’t flinch from the question of what you do if you love someone, but really don’t think that you can be with them.
It’s funny that I saw this in the same week that I read Niall Williams’s History of the Rain, which attempts to explore similar themes, of family, of myth, of Irish landscape – this is so much better! Even the rain is better in this film – it’s not so constant, and therefore used to better contrasting effect. About half way through the film, I was thinking, “OK, this is quite pretty, I’ve had a bit of a laugh, the kids are cute, now there’s just going to be a bit of a chase and a few spells towards the end,” and right at that moment, this unbelievably powerful emotional sequence unfurled across the screen, and it was really emotionally intense right until the end.
I don’t usually hold back with the tears during a film, but I had to towards the end this time because I would have been a bit embarrassing.
Children both seemed quite unaffected by it, though. Afterwards, LD#1 said that it was good, but LD#2 said that she preferred the Moomins film. I obviously have minority tastes.