In 9th century Ireland, Brendan (voice of Evan McGuire) is a young boy growing up in the Abbey of Kells under the watchful eye of his strict uncle, Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson). In the scriptorium, Brendan listens to the stories of the older Brothers. He is intrigued by the story of the Book of Iona, written by Brother Aidan (Mick Lally), which is said to bring light to the darkness.
The monks are living in very dark times because the Vikings are expanding into Ireland and attacking the abbeys and churches. Abbot Cellach is building a wall to defend Kells’ Abbey in the event of an attack by the invaders.
After such an attack, Brother Aidan escapes from Iona with his cat, Pangur Bán, to Kells. Brendan is thrilled to finally meet his hero and is honoured when Aidan seeks his help to complete the Book of Iona. Aidan sends Brendan on a mission into the forest to collect berries that will create green ink. Brendan has never been outside of the abbey before so it is with great courage that he steps into the unfamiliar world. There he meets Aisling (Christen Mooney), a mysterious, fairy-like girl, who helps Brendan with his task. Abbot Cellach, however, is not pleased with this arrangement and locks Brendan up in the tower. When the abbey is eventually attacked by the Vikings, the wall does not hold and the lives of all of the inhabitants are in danger. Aisling comes to the rescue of Brendan and Aidan.
Brendan and Aidan travel across Ireland for many years, during which they finish the book, which becomes known as the famous Book of Kells.
Fantasy; magic; Irish folklore; supernatural; mythology; paganism
The Secret of Kells has some slapstick violence, including characters falling over into the mud and characters falling over each other. The Secret of Kells also has some other violence. For example:
- Brendan falls off the scaffolding.
- A goose has its feathers plucked and bites a man.
- A wolf approaches Brendan and Pangur Bán, gnashing its teeth. Brendan and Pangur Bán try to hide on a rock but they are soon surrounded by a pack of wolves all gnashing their teeth and snarling at them. The wolves take Pangur Bán.
- The spirit of the dark cave is a serpent who chases Brendan and tries to eat him. The serpent opens its mouth wide on several occasions. Brendan and the serpent fight.
- The Abbey of Kells is attacked by the Vikings who send flaming arrows over the wall. An arrow hits Cellach who falls to the ground, seemingly dead, but he isn’t. The Vikings then storm the abbey, wielding swords and setting the abbey on fire. Screams are heard from the inhabitants who were hiding inside the abbey.
There are no sexual references in The Secret of Kells.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
There’s no substance use in The Secret of Kells.
Nudity and sexual activity
There’s no nudity or sexual activity in The Secret of Kells.
There’s no product placement in The Secret of Kells.
There’s no coarse language in The Secret of Kells.
Ideas to discuss with your children
The Secret of Kells is an animated family movie that tells the story of the origin of the Book of Kells. The movie is full of Irish folklore, music and Celtic charm. But it’s also quite intense because it’s set in the period of the Viking invasion and many scenes show buildings being attacked and burned. Because of these scenes the film is not suitable for children under 7 years and we recommend parental guidance for children aged 7 years.
These are the main messages from The Secret of Kells:
- Light overcomes darkness.
- Stand up for what you believe in.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include courage, bravery, hope, loyalty and determination.
The Secret of Kells could also give you the chance to talk with your children about how different life was at the time when the film is set, including how very austere life was and how and children with no family were often sent to monasteries and abbeys to be raised. You could also discuss the mixture of Christianity and paganism in the film.