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Title: Song of the Sea

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :2.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:90

“Song of the Sea” is the sophomore film from Director Tomm Moore, following up “The Secret of the Kells”, which garnered so much attention from an upstart director. “Secret of the Kells” was sweet and a great film to watch, but “Song of the Sea” shows how he’s matured in the last few years as a director and storyteller. I’m also happy to see more and more non mainstream directors using hand drawn animation in their films, as it adds a warmth and texture that CGI just hasn’t been able to replicate, despite the incredible advantages that CGI can offer the animated realm. “Song of the Sea” is sweet as “Secret of the Kells”, and deceptively simplistic, with a story that carries undercurrents of much more serious issues.

Ben (David Rawle) is a simple Irish lad. He plays on the beaches of his light house home, and is irritated by his younger sister, Saoirse (Lucy O’Connell), whom he resents just a wee bit. She was born on the day his mother died and is a constant reminder of the loss he’s experienced, as well as the loss his father (Brendan Gleeson) also suffers from. Living in anger, Ben’s life is turned upside down when his grandmother comes to the island and talks their father into letting the children stay with her in the city, where they can be properly cared for while he tries to recover from his grief. Cranky and puckish, old granny dear doesn’t sit too well with the children and they run off to try and make it home to the island.

Along the way they get involved with a whole nother world that ends up explaining the mysterious disappearance of their mother and requires the children to save the world. It turns out that Saoirse is a selkie, otherwise known as a half fairy, half human child who has the power to stop a vengeful witch named Macha. Macha is stealing the emotions of the fairy folk and sealing them up in enchanted jars to hide the pain from own youth. Being part fairy herself, Saoirse is starting to fade too and Ben has to find her magical coat and allow Saoirse to mend the spirit world with her innate abilities.


On the surface this is a little fantasy adventure based upon Gaelic lore. It’s heavily steeped in that type of Irish fairy tale with a heavy dose of handed down mythology. The inclusion of the ancient powers that lost their loves and grew sad, turning to stone is very reminiscent of many ethnic mythologies, and the selkies are a HUGE part of Irish tradition. They go all the way back to horror stories and tales to keep the children in bed, down to tales told from generation to generation as a way to preserve history. The tale is cute and light, with a steady pace that doesn’t blast on through, but isn’t slow or boring in the least. Once you dig deeper thought it becomes a tale of loss and love. Ben is struggling with the pain of losing a mother and their father is still longing for the love of his life. The two deal with grief in their own way and in many circumstances, damaging ways. Ben struggles with feeling emotionally abandoned by his father and physically abandoned by his mother and the anger he directs towards his little sister is a byproduct of that grief. Saoirse is quiet and muted for the most of the film, but her facial expressions and the sadness in her eyes betrays the little heart hidden inside. Tomm Moore, weaves the sadness and the childish innocence that their adventure brings with exquisite loving care to create a story that is both heartwarming and hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

You can tell the influence that Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki has had on the rest of the world, as Tomm Moore very much took his influences from the famed Studio Ghibli directors. In fact “Song of the Sea” has a very distinct “Ghibli” vibe to it, while still keep the tone and feel of the Irish culture that Moore is familiar with. It’s never cloying or annoyingly mimicking of the Asian style, but the influences are there under the surface in the storytelling. The mix of hand drawn animation and the amazing score mold “Song of the Sea” into something that is truly beautiful. I’m unfortunately not as familiar with Irish lore as I am other cultures so some of the allegories and historical legends weren’t as clear to me as I would have wished, but its easily picked up in the tale and besides getting used to the different mythological creatures the movie blends seamlessly with our understanding.


Rated PG for some mild peril, language and pipe smoking images

Video :5stars:
Hand drawn animation is a sight to behold and “Song of the Sea” is one of the finer encodes I’ve seen recently. Brand new and shiny it doesn’t suffer from needing to be cleaned up like some of Disney’s classics, and carries all the benefits of modern transferring hand drawn art to film. The detail is crystal clear and the beautiful watercolors looks flawless. The colors range from pastels and light blues and greens to richly saturated reds and deep ocean blues with white foam. I did notice the TINIEST of banding in a couple scenes, but it was only once paused that I could even make it out, so in motion it’s a non-issue. Artifacting and compression issues are kept at bay and the resulting image is flat out spectacular with inky blacks and wondrous precision on the lines. Simply magnificent from beginning to end, the beautiful art takes you back to a day when the gloss of CGI was a distant thought and men/women sat drawing with charcoal and watercolors. A+ transfer for sure.

Audio :4.5stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless audio track is almost as stunning as the video encode is, giving us a satisfyingly immersive experience that ripples with melodic Gaelic score. Dialog is crystal clear and is locked firmly in the center channel. There’s some minor panning effects between the mains, but the center channel takes the brunt of the vocals with ringing authority. The sound of the seaside and the creaking of the old Irish city flows from all around with a myriad of sonic details to accent the adventure. The beautiful and haunting Irish score sets the tone for the movie and keeps you feeling longing and wistful throughout the 94 minute runtime, exquisitely shaping the feel of the movie. LFE is tight and contained, but has some nice depth to it that adds a very impressive bottom end to the film. Put all that together and you have a finely detailed audio track that really is masterfully created.

Extras :2.5stars:

• Behind the Scenes
• Animation Tests
• The Art of "Song of the Sea"
• Audio Commentary with Director Tomm Moore

Overall: :4.5stars:

Watching little gems like this one is one of the joys of this job. These little films that don’t seem to make much waves in the press releases and can be swept under the carpet and out of sight so easily. It was nominated for an academy award, but unfortunately was not fortunate to win one, even though the technical skill and near flawless storytelling of Director/Writer Tomm Moore is very impressive. The tale is timeless and heartwarming with enough adult oriented material that people of all ages can enjoy the mythological tale of the Selkies. Universal did a fantastic job with the video and audio specs which makes this a must watch for all animated film fans. Especially those how enjoy traditional hand animated works. Highly recommended

Additional Information:

Starring: Lucy O'Connell, Colm Ó'Snodaigh, Liam Hourican
Directed by: Tomm Moore
Written by: Will Collins, Tomm Moore
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 17th 2015

Buy Song of the Sea Blu-ray on Amazon

Recommendation: Watch It

More about Mike

2,072 Posts
Thanks for the review. I have seen “The Secret of the Kells” and that movie was great. We all enjoyed. I never heard of this one but will check it out. Thanks.
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