Movie Reviews: Song of the Sea, Ted 2, Love and Mercy

Nominated for an Oscar earlier this year, Song of the Sea (PG) is a stunning animation from the people who brought us The Book of Kells (2009). 

Movie Reviews: Song of the Sea, Ted 2, Love and Mercy

Young Saoirse (voiced by Lucy O’Connell) lives with her older brother Ben (David Rawle) and their widowed father Conor (Brendan Gleeson) on a remote island of the north-west of Ireland.

Steeped in Celtic lore, the island is a magical place — Saoirse, taking after her mother, Bronach (Lisa Hannigan), is a selkie creature whose place is in the sea, but fulfilling her destiny means unleashing a sinister power.

Directed by Tomm Moore, who co-writes with Will Collins, Song of the Sea is a wonderfully imaginative retelling of old Celtic mythology, splicing together the contemporary world with an unseen parallel universe populated by fairies, selkies, giants, witches and all manner of fabulous beings.

The story, which sees Ben and Saoirse carted off to the noisy, bustling city by their well-meaning Granny (Fionnula Flanagan), only for the pair to run away and begin an epic return home, may prove a little too busy for very young viewers as it offers sub-plots that artificially complicate the simplicity of Saoirse’s dilemma, but an older audience is likely to be enthralled from start to finish.

That’s largely due to the mesmerising animation, an occasionally jaw-dropping vision that incorporates elements of ancient Irish Ogham script into the kind of baroque ornamentation inspired by the Book of Kells, and the combined effect of elegiac tone, the mythologising story and the marvellous hand-drawn animation is akin to a call to arms to an Irish generation to reclaim its lost heritage.

Ted 2 (16s) offers a rather different kind of animation, which opens with cuddly toy bear Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) marrying the beautiful Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and discovering that the path of true love ne’er doth run smooth.

At least, it doesn’t when you’re a stuffed bear and you want to have kids, and your bid to adopt children results in the government telling you that toy bears aren’t allowed to marry, have kids or even consider themselves human.

Outraged at being officially designated as ‘property’, Ted enlists his best buddy John (Mark Wahlberg) and the help of novice attorney Samantha (Amanda Seyfried), and embarks on a human rights campaign to establish his human credentials.

Directed by Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the hugely successful comedies Family Guy and American Dad, Ted 2 is at times delightful in the way it splices the animated Ted into John’s life — indeed, there are (very brief) moments when it’s as charming as last year’s Paddington.

The tone, of course, is radically different: Ted is coarse, crude and profane, and his ‘bromance’ with John revolves around beer, weed and chicks.

At times laugh-out loud hilarious, at other times gobsmackingly offensive (and occasionally both), the movie is essentially a series of set-pieces designed to provide Ted with a soapbox from which to display his boorish ignorance (the F Scott Fitzgerald gag is particularly good), although whether the idea is to satirise or celebrate stupidity is anyone’s guess.

Music biopics can stretch themselves too thin by trying to cover too much material over an entire life, but Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy (12A), a drama about Beach Boys’ troubled genius Brian Wilson, gets it right.

Focusing on two crucial events in Wilson’s life, Pohlad explores the songwriter’s descent into paranoia during the 1960s, with Paul Dano playing Wilson as a tragic little-boy-lost even as he was reaching his creative peak with the Pet Sounds album and the abandoned Smile sessions.

A twitchy John Cusack then takes up the baton to play mid-’80s Wilson, as he emerges from his paranoia and steps out of the shadow cast by his therapist/legal guardian Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti).

If the biopic can be problematic, however, getting inside the mind of the mad genius is the real challenge facing Bill Pohlad, but here he excels, allowing the camera minutely explore Wilson’s serene face as he assembles the music in his head - the angelic harmonies, soaring strings, distortions and echoes of both albums’ signature songs (there’s also the flipside, of course, as the music and sounds in Wilson’s head turn ugly and begin to torment him as he succumbs to mental illness).

That Cusack looks nothing like either Dano - or Wilson - actually works in the film’s favour; by 1985 Wilson resembled little of his ’60s-era self, and Cusack employs an occasionally jarring physicality, using notably different body language and gestures to those employed by Dano to further highlight the disconnect between his younger and older selves.

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