Directed by John Sayles. 1994.
The film wonderfully recaptures the tradition of oral storytelling, especially by Fiona's grandfather who tells the child stories about her ancestors with passion and conviction. The film depicts a version of the tale about the Selkie, the half-seal and half-human creatures that are regarded in Irish folklore as being able to transform themselves from seals into humans by casting off their skins. Her father's cousin Tadgh (John Lynch), one of the "dark ones", tells Fiona how her ancestor Liam (Gerald Rooney) married a Selkie who was called Nuala (Susan Lynch), had children together, and lived happily for many years.
Later when the children
told Nuala where to find her sealskin, she left the family and returned
to the sea. Fiona wonders if her baby brother Jamie (Cillian Byrne), lost
at sea in his cradle during the evacuation, might still be alive under
the protection of the Selkies on Roan Inish, waiting for the family to
return. Fiona visits the island with her 13-year old cousin Eamon (Richard
Sheridan) and, when she discovers footprints in the surf, begins a process
of unraveling the truth of Jamie's disappearance. While some extremely
stiff performances and thick Irish accents can get in the way (turn on
the closed captioning), The Secret of Roan Inish is a genuinely
moving parable about preserving family tradition, being a part of the natural
world, and having the courage to seek the truth for yourself. The film
can be recommended for older children, but keep in mind that the pace is
slow and the car chases are kept to an absolute minimum.
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