Reviewed by: Carissa Horton
|Featuring||Brendan Gleeson (Abbot Cellach—voice), Liam Hourican (Brother Tang / Leonard—voice), Mick Lally (Aidan—voice), Michael McGrath (Adult Brendan—voice), Evan McGuire (Brendan—voice), Christen Mooney (Aisling—voice), Paul Tylack (Brother Assoua—voice), Paul Young (Brother Square—voice)|
|Director||Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey|
|Producer||Les Armateurs, Vivi Film, Cartoon Saloon, France 2 Cinéma, Didier Brunner, Rahma Ghili, Tomm Moore, Ivan Rouvreure, Viviane Vanfleteren, Paul Young|
Twelve-year-old Brendan (Evan McGuire) lives a sheltered life, safe behind the walls of Kells, built by his uncle, Abbott Cellach (Brendan Gleeson). Cellach lives in constant fear about what lies beyond Kells, a world ravaged by the brutality of the Vikings. But while Cellach allows the fear to consume him, Brendan lives in hope that all will be well.
When Brother Aidan (Mick Lally), a renowned illuminator among the monks, arrives, Brendan sees his world through new eyes. Aidan’s goal is to complete The Book of Kells, a supernatural volume said to contain truths that will destroy all evil souls when looked upon.
With Brendan eager to make himself useful, Brother Aidan finds him a willing and apt pupil of the quill. Together, the two of them work tirelessly to complete the volume. When Aidan runs low on a certain berry containing radiant green dye, Brendan is finally given the chance to venture beyond the walls of Kell. Without Cellach knowing, Brendan sneaks into the forest surrounding Kells, eager to find the berry his mentor requires. But it is dark, and Brendan, in his fear, loses himself in the woods.
If not for a tiny wood fairy named Aisling (Christen Mooney), Brendan would have remained lost forever, or, even worse, been devoured by ravenous wolves. Brendan discovers a dear friend in the mischievous Aisling, something he has never had before. But upon his return to Kells, Brendan finds his uncle in an uproar because Brendan risked his safety by venturing beyond the outer walls of Kells.
With the danger of the Viking invaders drawing closer, Brendan longs even more strongly to complete the book with Brother Aidan, but Cellach refuses to allow him to participate further. Is it possible for Abbott Cellach to realize in time that fear is not the answer to adversity, but rather faith?
Foreign animated films are always remarkable to watch. But I don’t think I’ve seen anything to compare with “The Secret of Kells.” On the whole, the style seems mundane, even plain, until an intricately designed scene is displayed and the viewer is left in awe. The Book of Kells, itself, is an amazing piece of animation, as is the forest with the shadows falling on the characters. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before, and probably never will again.
And because of the remarkable style, this film is much more likely to attract an adult crowd of viewers. The plot is for mature audiences, and even the violence, while not gruesome, is far more expansive than in most animated movies.
What intrigue me the most are the religious undertones of “The Secret of Kells.” Fairies aside, the story is very Christian in origin. This magical book, the book that slays evil and rewards truth, is none other than the Bible. Brendan realizes that his uncle has put his faith in walls, in a material object to protect the people from harm. But walls can be broken, it is the soul of a person that matters most. The Book of Kells offers truth to the thirsty soul, provides answers to unspoken questions. It makes a wall unnecessary. Brendan places his faith in God and forgets to be afraid. He finds truth in The Book of Kells.
While I wouldn’t recommend this film for most young children, it might be something to consider for your tweens and teens. Sometimes it is the subtle Christian message that really clicks in a person’s mind, like Gandalf’s resurrection in The Fellowship of the Ring. I found the same truth in “The Secret of Kells,” even with a fairy lurking in the background. There is sorrow and death contained in this film, but also truth and light. It’s really a shame this movie didn’t win the Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. I would have chosen it, hands down. If only more animated films went beyond superficial and worldly things, then more people might understand truth, as Christians see it.
Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.