Saoirse (voice of Lucy O’Connell) and Ben (voice of David Rawle) are two children who live on a wild and beautiful island off the coast of Ireland. Their mother, Bronagh (voice of Lisa Hannigan), disappeared when Saoirse was born, and they’re being raised by their father, the lighthouse keeper (voice of Brendan Gleeson). He’s still grieving and spends too much time in the pub. Saoirse is mute. And Ben misses their mother and resents his little sister for taking her away.
On Saoirse’s sixth birthday, their grandmother (voice of Fionnula Flanagan) comes to visit them from the mainland. She thinks that they’re not safe living on the island and insists that they should live with her in the big city. That night, Saoirse finds a large shell that was left by her mother. As she gently blows into the shell, a haunting tune comes from within it. The tune carries through the night air and wakes hundreds of glowing fairy lights. Saoirse follows the lights and they lead her to an old trunk at the back of a closet. She lifts the lid of the trunk and is delighted to find a shining white fur coat. She slips the coat over her shoulders and walks down to the shore, where she can see the shining eyes of seals peeping out at her from the still water. Without knowing why, Saoirse wades out and dives into the sea with the seals. As Saoirse enters the water, she transforms into a glowing white seal who can glide and play in the deep ocean. She is a selkie, a mythical human/seal creature.
In the meantime, their grandmother has discovered that Saoirse is gone and rushes to the shore to find her. Saoirse washes up on the beach in her human form, and her worried grandmother immediately whisks her back into the house.
The next day, their father reluctantly agrees that Saoirse and Ben should go to the city with their grandmother. He locks the enchanted fur coat back in the trunk and throws it deep into the ocean. Ben is furious at leaving the island and his beloved Sheep dog Cu. He makes sure to map out the way home as they drive to the city, planning to escape as soon as he can.
As soon as they arrive in the city, the children know that they must make their way back home. Saoirse is desperate to return to her selkie form and Ben is homesick and missing his dog. Together they go back through the lush Irish countryside, trying to find their way home.
It’s an adventurous and perilous mission. Saoirse’s selkie song from the seashell has woken many of the faerie folk and characters of myth and legend, whom Ben and Saoirse encounter along the way. Ben is amazed, because it seems that all the stories his mother told him are coming to life. But as they travel along, Saoirse becomes weaker and weaker until she can barely walk. She needs her selkie coat and her selkie song to survive. Ben must make sure Saoirse gets home.
Loss of a parent; grief; mythology; supernatural; storytelling; magic; the sea; sibling relationships
Song of the Sea has some very mild violence. For example:
- Ben and Saoirse have some mild fights. For example, Ben pushes Saoirse off a rock at the beach and pushes her face into a birthday cake.
- Ben has a play gun. He uses it to march Saoirse back into the house, as if she is under arrest.
Song of the Sea has no sexual references.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Song of the Sea shows some use of substances. For example:
- A character smokes a pipe.
- The father drinks beer in a bar.
Nudity and sexual activity
Song of the Sea has no nudity and sexual activity.
There’s no product placement noted in Song of the Sea.
Song of the Sea has some mild coarse language. For example:
- There is a sign on a door that says ‘Feic off’. This looks ruder than it actually is – ‘feic’ is Irish slang and different to the f-word in the English language.
- Ben insults his sister, calling her stupid and annoying.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Song of the Sea is a rich, atmospheric and beautiful movie. It weaves a complex story of enchantment, mythology and symbolism together with a more human story about living with grief and loss. The hand-drawn animation is like a moving piece of art and the traditional music score is absolutely delightful. It has a slower pace and is more melancholy than most children’s movies, but it will captivate many children from beginning to end.
Although there isn’t much in Song of the Sea to scare small children, it is a sad and emotional story. Some children might find it emotionally overwhelming at times.
The main messages from Song of the Sea are about the love between siblings, the importance and power of storytelling, and the acceptance of grief and loss.
Values in Song of the Sea that you could reinforce with your children include the following:
- Strong emotions like sadness and grief are part of the human experience and it’s important to explore them.
- Traditional oral storytelling is a powerful link to the past and the earth. For example, Ben holds on to the memory of his mother through the stories she told him.
- Find your true inner voice, and be brave enough to use it.
- It’s important to care for and help your brothers and sisters.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like ways of dealing with grief. For example, the father in this movie deals with the loss of his wife by drinking in the pub. Is this a healthy way of working through your emotions?