There comes a point in every parent’s life when you cannot do one more animated film. Not. A. Single. One. I rapidly hit that point about a year ago. Frozen broke me. So when my children asked to watch 2009’s The Secret of Kells, I was deeply afraid for my sanity. I couldn’t take one more musical number. I couldn’t take another predictable plot. I could not take one more two-hour advertisement for Disney on Ice (or the dolls. Or the sing-along music. Or the costumes. Or the Broadway play. Or the limited edition Blu Ray.). I’m happy to report that The Secret of Kells, brought to us by directors Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, is none of those things. In fact, it’s incredible. Here are five reasons to watch this one on Netflix this weekend.
|This one is charming without the Disney On Ice shtick.|
The Book of Kells has a history that’s as rich and gorgeous as its artwork. Composed over centuries, it’s a four-volume book that covers four gospels of the New Testament. It’s roughly 1200 years old, and it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of print in existence. The detail put into the book is, in a word, exquisite. Considering that it was meant to be displayed during worship rather than used as an active piece of the mass, it is heavy on the beauty factor as opposed to practicality. Really, Google it if you’re not familiar. So then a film takes up the task of postulating its history, it’s more than just a film – it’s a nod to artistry and dedication. Really, if you’re not familiar with it, do some research. It’s breathtaking.
Some of the cast you’ll recognize, like Brendan Gleeson (who is smooth, controlled and exacting as Abbot Cellach). Others, like Evan McGuire (as the spirited young Brendan), aren’t as recognizable. However, their talents are perfectly cast in this film. Christen Mooney is amazing as Aisling, the young forest spirit that befriends Brendan. There’s something great about listening to two voices and knowing that it’s actually a child, as opposed to a 23-year-old It Actress. Look out for the comforting vitality of Mick Lally, who voices Brother Aiden; his contribution is playfulness poured into the human voice. These characters felt so real based on their voices. A job well done by the cast.
… and it doesn’t suck. Brought to us by Mooney’s Aisling, it’s haunting and age-appropriate for a young girl. And you know what? That’s terribly comforting. I don’t always need to hear a soprano that can sing five octaves. While it’s pretty, it’s not always realistic, and it sometimes will bring me out of a story rather than immerse me in it. I don’t need a melodramatic showcase of range; I need something real, even in an animated film. The result of using a genuine little girl’s voice for this song lends the action of the film an innocence and mysticism that’s missing in most animated films. The impact is beautiful, childlike and filled with wonder, much like how we come to view Aisling herself.
|“You must go where I cannot.”|
Tradition is a tough thing to escape: someone’s always clinging to it, praising it, citing it as the reasonf for order while actively avoiding the future, even in the face of the need to change. It can be tough to change. Hell, here in the United States, we’re currently watching the tenants of tradition battle the younger voices that want equality. Cellach’s building of a wall is closed off to the possibility of enjoying the world around him, itself a preservation of their society from the natural world, which includes predators. It shows us how being closed-minded can cut us off, while exploration – though dangerous and unstable at times – can yield true growth and beauty. Again, it’s a good theme for both the young and old to observe.
Ask yourself: do you want to live in a world that is more interested in preserving an illusion of safety than one that brings wonder? To ask it more bluntly: are you willing to sacrifice your freedom and sense of artistic expression (and by extension, happiness) for a bit of perceived protection? This film will help restore your faith in finding joy in a dangerous world. Trust me on this.
|Sometimes, there’s safety, and then there’s living.|