I’ve been asked on occasion why I tend to get so worked up when I review bad children’s films. Comments usually go something like this:
“Calm down, Ness! It’s just a kid’s movie; nobody goes in expecting one of those to be good!”
This makes me want to hurt people.
The implication here is that children don’t deserve good movies. As a matter of fact, kids need good movies. And so, I am bringing to your attention “The Secret of the Roan Inish”, easily the best family film of the early 1990’s. Also, it’s St. Patrick’s Day. And I don’t think I can take another “Luck of the Irish“.
The film is based on an old Irish folktale of the type that seems to crop up wherever humans and sea creatures live together. And director John Sayles refreshingly tells the story with respect and sincerity. Would that more children’s films were as bittersweet, beautiful, and -uh- free of fart jokes.
The Best Parts:
3 minutes in – Boy, did you pick the wrong place to look for Platform 9 3/4.
5 minutes in – “Yes, we live behind the sun.”
8 minutes in – “Let’s surf over and get some Liechi Berries!”
9 minutes in – Hi, Eamon.
12 minutes in – “Silflay hraka u embleer Rah!”
14 minutes in – Is there anything cows can’t do?
19 minutes in – “Free your mind. Screeeah!”
27 minutes in – Ew, nice analogy, Grandpa.
34 minutes in – “Lady, you wouldn’t want to hear what I have to say about humans.”
38 minutes in – I can’t be the only one who hates it when adults talk about very young children like this.
40 minutes in – So for those not in the know, the Dark Irish are… pretty much exactly that. Irish people with dark hair, sometimes dark eyes, ect. (but otherwise still pasty). I’m not sure if I “count”, but there is, naturally, some folklore surrounding the Dark Irish. (This is likely less out of prejudice over unusual-looking people and more because you cannot be a thing that exists in Ireland without having your own mythology.) Some say that they may be the last genetic remnants of a race of native people who inhabited Ireland in prehistoric times. Others say that they are descended from Spanish sailors from the olden days.
This movie provides a different theory. A really different theory.
49 minutes in – Oh, that sucks.
51 minutes in – So you’re saying I ought to be Strange-Ness?
56 minutes in –
57 minutes in – “Well, you can’t say that Irish mythology isn’t confusing on many, many points. So, I don’t know.”
1 hour, 4 minutes in – She’s taking this whole stranded on an abandoned spooky island thing rather well.
1 hour, 6 minutes in – Here comes nightmare fuel.
1 hour, 8 minutes in – “WAAAAAAAAAAALLLLT!!!???!!!”
(I know. I withheld myself until now.)
1 hour, 12 minutes in – Yes, I have tried this. It didn’t work. :(
1 hour, 15 minutes in – “The blue is so blue! / That’s what her eyes are! / That’s what I am today!”
1 hour, 22 minutes in – Woah. And here I am having to motivate myself to consolidate my iTunes library. :(
1 hour, 28 minutes in – “Well, I don’t think any of us expected her to react like that.”
1 hour, 35 minutes in – Hmmm….. Spoilertime!
Now, here’s one of the reasons why this movie rocks: this ending is bittersweet as hell. Jamie has to adjust to human life after living for three years with an adoptive family that spends much of their day mucking about in the water and having a good time. Good luck, kid.
“The Sea gives; the Sea takes away.” – Grandpa
Things I Learned from this Movie:
Well, above all else:
* – ***NEVER LEAVE BABY UNATTENDED ON BEACH!!!***
* – Also, do not get into an interspecies relationship. Especially with a sea creature. I don’t care how human she looks; it will just end in tears.
Things That Can Save Any Movie:
Cool Creatures? Shapeshifting animal brides for one.
Good Soundtrack? I hope you like that one folksong that goes “Root! Do-do-do-do! / Root! Do-do-do-doodily!” You’re going to hear it a lot.
Hot Guys? Hot Dark Irish guys. Also Selkies if you’re into that.
Pretty Scenery? Oh, God yes.
Nifty Animation/Effects/Art Direction? No, but that’s one of the great things about this movie. The transformation and dream sequences use *no* CGI.
Drinking Game Potential? “JAAAAAAAAAAAMIE!!!!!” = You taking a shot.
Head Movie Potential? It’s based upon an old Irish fairy tale. With a really sad ending.
Joey attending a crazy party under the sea.
A Jones Entertainment Group and Skerry Productions Film released in 1994. Written and directed by John Sayles.
Jeni Courtney, Richard Sheridan, Eileen Colgan, Mick Lally, Susan Lynch, and Cillian Byrne.
Roger Ebert’s Review – Couldn’t have said this better myself.