Here we have a rather fantastic ditty from 2014 that managed to get itself an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. But, much like its predecessor, 'The Secret of Kells' (both directed by Tomm Moore, and both similar in tone), it was forgotten about, and kinda swept under the rug. However, also like 'Kells', it's most definitely a film worth checking out.
The film opens by sowing us a happy family consisting of Father, Conor (Brendan Gleeson), pregnant Mother, Bronach (Lisa Hannigan), and son and overall protagonist, Ben (David Rawle). One night, Bronach heads out and disappears, randomly, but the presumption is that she heads out to die after giving birth to Saoirse (Lucy O'Connell). So the beginning is pretty heavy, and sets the tone for much of the rest of things.
Some years later, Ben is shown with her little sister, being a bit mean to her, as he blames her for the apparent death of his mother. All in all, he loves her, but there's that bitterness that sort of overshadows things, causing him to do things like scare her with some of his mom's old stories of Irish folklore.
One night, Ben finds out that Saoirse is a selkie (a being who can alter states between being human and seal) who is sent on a mission to free a bunch of faeries from Celtic Goddess, Macha (Fionnula Flanagan). He joins her on the mission, and along the way they meet all sorts of entertaining characters from Irish lore, providing us with the idea that the mother's stories are actually true.
With that in mind, this ends up being one of the most gorgeous looking animated fantasies I've had the pleasure of viewing. Even looking at the simplicity of the animation here, the film provides us with some pretty awesome creatures and characters and settings that are something straight out of a dream. In fact, the best one-word description I can come up with for this title is probably "dreamlike". It's just beautiful.
It's otherwise that sort of adventure film we've seen done a few times over. I personally found it sort of reminiscent of something like 'NeverEnding Story' or 'Labrynth' in its execution. However, the animation allows for a bit more leeway in imagination, and some of these characters are reminiscent of Ghibli material with just how imaginative they are in their execution.
It's an all around beautiful film, between its animation, dreamlike settings and characters, and the story really sticks to your heart when everything is all said and done. A lot of it has to do with Ben learning to be a big brother, as well, and slowly being able to forgive Saoirse, and love and help her as her big brother. It's just one of those films you finish and think to yourself "wow, that was just beautiful".
I hope to see more from Tomm Moore, and intend on eventually seeing last year's release, 'The Breadwinner'. He has this particular style that really lends itself to all-out fantasy, and his films are as overlooked by the academy as Hayao Miyazaki - and even he won for 'Spirited Away'. I hope to see Moore win his Oscar one day. Seriously, check out his films if you haven't yet. They're a great peek into Irish folklore, and make for some really beautiful family viewing. I absolutely loved this, it was right up my alley.