Voice cast member Lisa Hannigan, an Irish songstress who sings here in a Celtic-ethereal style, features on a soundtrack that is mystic, eerie and freeing. Yeats is whispered: ‘Come away, human child/To the water and the wild.’ Inviting? Very much so.
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The narrative’s general rites-of-passage layout is of course extremely familiar, though, especially for foreign audiences, many of the stories-within-stories and characters that dot this particular journey will feel new as well as delightful.
Even as it entertains increasingly far-fetched detours, the film's folkloric narrative offers an ideal vehicle for this pictorial play.
Song of the Sea moves delicately but purposefully from pain to contentment and from anger to love. On land and underwater, the siblings’ adventures unfold in hand-drawn, painterly frames of misty pastels, sometimes encircled by cobwebby borders that give them the look of pictures in a locket.
Song of the Sea was made primarily, though not exclusively, for young children. Its unhurried pace will serve as an antidote to, or even an inoculation against, the mad rush of most contemporary animation. This is a film made by the other crowd, people who care about helping children to care about the medium of film for the rest of their lives.
Song Of The Sea is a triumph of design and animation, populating lavishly detailed, patterned backdrops with characters so simplified that they could’ve been cut-and-pasted from a newspaper comic strip.
Song of the Sea is differentiated not only by its rich visual design — grayer and more subdued than “The Secret of Kells,” yet still a marvel to behold — but also by its ethereal musical dimension, another collaboration between composer Bruno Coulais and Irish folk band Kila.
The picture is beautifully rendered in pencils and watercolors, with some CG, giving it an appropriately timeless storybook look, even though it's set in a mostly modern world of buses and 3-D glasses.
Visually splendid, but generically flat-footed, Song of the Sea is an animated fantasy that comes close to greatness, but is rarely as clever as it is comforting.