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Director Tomm Moore, best known for his animated fantasy The Secret of the Kells, brings another Celtic legend to the screen withSong of the Sea. In this gorgeous old-school animation, 10-year-old Ben, his father, and his sister live in an isolated lighthouse on an island. Ben is still mourning the loss of his mother, who died six years earlier—on the day she gave birth to his sister Saoirse.

Saoirse is lively enough, but she still hasn’t spoken a word. Ben’s father has grown distant in his own grief, and Saoirse mostly just gets on Ben’s nerves. One day she finds the shell flute their mother gave to Ben. She plays a haunting, mournful song, and it summons fairy lights that guide her to the ocean to find out who she really is.

Eventually Ben learns the truth, that his little sister is a selkie—a magical being who can become a seal in the water. She has the power to free the fairies who have been turned to stone by the mysterious witch Macha. Macha is dealing with the loss of her own son by literally bottling up her feelings along with everyone else’s, turning them all to stone. Saoirshe has the power to reverse what Macha has done—and that puts Saoirshe in grave danger. It is up to Ben to protect her.

This lovely film, in spite of a meandering storyline, gets at the truth that grief and sorrow are as much a part of living as joy and happiness. To avoid painful loss by hardening your heart is to inevitably avoid the experience of joy as well. And the loving sacrifice of one small but powerful person brings new life to the hearts of stone. On disc now. (GKIDS)

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