‘Song of the Sea’: selkies, songs, and storytelling

By Lisa Nault
Staff Writer

In Scottish and Irish folklore, selkies are mythological creatures who take the form of seals but can shed their skin in order to transform into humans. They are usually portrayed in films as shedding their skin and becoming women but in the actual folktales they can also become men.

In these stories, humans usually capture selkies by taking their sealskins, making them unable to return to the water, because selkies are depicted as beautiful human beings and are usually fallen in love with. While these stories are often tragedies, the latest film re-imagining this tale is more uplifting.

movie poster for song of the sea

Image: IMDb.com

“Song of the Sea” is about the adventures of a young girl, who is half selkie, and her human brother. The storytelling in the film is wonderful and the animation is just stunning.

Director Tomm Moore is now synonymous with the distinct animation style of his films. “Song of the Sea” is traditionally animated, which means that every frame of the film is drawn by hand. Traditional animation is not rare by any means, but it is not always aesthetically appealing on the big screen.

The problem with traditional animation is that there is a greater likelihood that the character’s movements will appear disconnected and choppy. Since every frame is drawn by hand, mistakes can be made in the continuity of the motions. However, in “Song of the Sea” this is not the case. The movements flow smoothly and do not distract the audience from what is being shown to them.

This film is a 2015 Academy Award-nominated film for Best Animated Film. While “Big Hero 6,” the winner, had an amazing story, the animation in “Song of the Sea” is clearly incredible.

The color palette of the film is pastel with a focus on different shades of blue and white. Of course blue would be prominent, since the film is about the sea, but the color is much more significant to the story.

Sorrow is a major theme in the film, whether it centers around a character in morning, lonely, or just ashamed of being afraid of water. The various shades of blue are striking and convey either a sense of peace or impending doom, depending on the scene. The color choice helps the audience empathize with the characters since it represents how they are feeling. Also, the colors’ pairings with beautiful imagery immediately immerses the viewers into the story.

Anyone who sees the trailer can tell that the animation is noteworthy, but does the story itself hold up? In many aspects it does. While remaining a children’s film, “Song of the Sea” does not patronize its audience. It contains death and the impact it has on loved ones, which is a topic not typically discussed with young people.

There is one part of the story that asks, is it better to be able to experience all emotions, including very painful ones, or have no emotions at all? That is a big question to have audiences reflect on, especially children.

However, the film also contains very uplifting and comedic moments. The characters are very likable and there are moments in the film that many children can relate to, such as not getting along with their siblings or feeling like they are not understood by a parent. It is enjoyable for all ages.

The only flaw “Song of the Sea” has is that there are some plot points that do not have clear answers. The two biggest questions audience members leave the theater with are how did Saoirse, the main character, get born, and what exactly happens to the mother at the beginning of the film?

In the trailer and at the beginning of the film, Saoirse’s mother is seen standing in the ocean during a storm, still pregnant. Then her mother disappears and the father dives into the water and goes back to shore with a baby in his hands. How did the mother give birth? How is he able to find the newborn baby in the midst of the stormy water? The film moves on from that point, so it appears to expect the audience to suspend their disbelief.

The other question simply asks what the mother is doing out in the stormy ocean in the first place. She says, “I’m sorry my love,” and then is gone. Why did she have to go away? Did she just disappear into the water? Again, there is never truly an answer. These points in the film are minor but still significant because they are literally the beginning of the whole movie.

I would highly recommend “Song of the Sea” to anybody. The story has something for everyone to enjoy, and music that drives the story will be stuck in your head, which is okay, because the songs are all charming. Unfortunately, it is no longer playing in theaters in this area but it has been released to DVD as of last week.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s