You cannot help but be swept along with the fantastical story and gorgeous images
My son, remember me in your stories and in your songs. Know that I will always love you, always.In amongst the maelstrom of dross that comes out of Hollywood, there are, on occasion, independent films that remind you of how terrific the cinematic medium can be; how engrossing when character development and empathy coincide with a sensitive yet encapsulating story and how absorbing a story can be when you care about the characters, their plight and the outcome. Tonight’s feature, Song of the Sea, is one such film, that takes a simple folklore story full of hidden depths, treats its origins and the audience with respect and the result is something magical. Ben, a young boy, lives with his sister and widowed father on a remote lighthouse island with his loyal dog.His mother told him stories of fairies, giants and evil witches before bed and this has shaped his way of looking at the world. When his granny takes the siblings away to the city, his sister, Saoirse, is revealed to have special powers; she is her mother’s daughter; and Ben must battle his feelings, evil witches and rivalry to enable him to save not only his family but the whole of the fairy nation. Director Tomm Moore injects his film with so much emotion, ably helped by the simplistic, yet complex, animation and incredibly moving score by Bruno Coulais, they you cannot help but be swept along with the fantastical story, which manages to be both grounded and ethereal, creating an enchanting film that will touch everyone of all ages.
Picture QualityThe disc presents a widescreen 1.85:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to B. Whilst the animation style at first appears almost childlike in its simplicity it hides hidden depths and glorious detail. Check out the landscapes, or the motion of the sea, of the floating lights; each has pin sharp edges that never soften. Colouring is sublime; reds, greens and blues are all solid and bold; check out the wishing well temple, the countryside landscapes and the sea and skies for terrific examples.
Whilst the animation style at first appears almost childlike in its simplicity it hides hidden depths and glorious detail
Contrast and brightness are set to give very punchy blacks that increase the depth of the frame and give the picture a real sense of vibrancy. Digitally there are no compression issues or edge enhancement and I never spotted any banding either. The original print is obviously in pristine condition. You expect an animated feature to have a terrific picture and this one is no exception - gorgeous.
Sound QualityI stuck with the English DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. Being built form the ground up this track is totally immersive and utterly spellbinding utilising the surround speakers to add plenty of ambiance to fill out the surround landscape. Dialogue is clear and precise and is dominated by the fontal array, while effects come thick and fast and really place you in the centre of things: the lapping of the waves on the shore, the movement of vehicles in the city, the rustling of foliage in the forests all are set to give a very natural sounding experience and add much to the visuals. The stunning score by Bruno Coulais is as rich as the visuals and layered so well into the mix it becomes the soundtrack. Bass is well maintained throughout being low and powerful but never booming or over powering; LF effects are sparse but add much to the proceedings. There is never an opportunity lost to add something to the surround soundstage and this is a perfect example of how to approach immersion - excellent.
ExtrasAudio Commentary – From director Tomm Moore whose Irish lilt is almost hypnotic to listen to as he regales you with information, facts both anecdotal and technical about every aspect of the film, from its inception to casting, camera work, style, animation, music and references throughout.
Behind the Scenes – Two minutes of filming showing what went on to get the film made, showing the global aspect needed to complete the filming; can be played with an optional commentary form Moore in which he tells you what’s going on, on screen.
Animation Tests – Four scenes in their ‘pre-vis’ phase, plays with an optional commentary from Moore in which he explains a little bit more about what is going on.
The Art of Song of the Sea – Stills of the artwork for the film in a slide show as the score plays.
Blu-ray VerdictSong of the Sea is director Tomm Moore’s second feature (after The Secret of Kells) in which he takes on another Irish folklore story of fairies, magical beings, giants and evil witches and interweaves it with a modern family grieving after the loss of their mother, sibling rivalry and interfering grannies. All of which enchants and bewitches the audience with an all-encompassing story about love, loss and the heart of the family. Even though the story is fantastical in its elements at its core there is a struggling family that everyone can identify with, grounding the characters in a real situation that enables empathy with their plight – as such the audience is willingly drawn along into their world and the story becomes so much more. By using both visual and musical cinematic tricks, Moore, transports the audience into, through and ultimately out of his universe and everyone is the better for it.
It is a magical film and one that not only deserves its Academy Award nomination, but really ought to have won.
As a Blu-ray set the package from Studiocanal is very nice; the picture is clearly reference being both bright and detailed with dense blacks and plenty of depth (even with the stylistic animation). The audio is equally as good, it's clear, well layered, natural with strong controlled bass making for a terrific surround environment. The extras package is a wee bit light, but the making of features as well as the commentary give a wealth of information. But it's the film that will sell this set and I, for one, hope it does very well.
You can buy Song of the Sea on Blu-ray here
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