In a Medieval village called Kells, the young Brendan (voiced by McGuire) has never been outside the walls. His uncle (Gleeson) is the abbot, and is only concerned with building strong defences against the marauding Viking horde. But Brendan and the other monks have art and history on their minds, and find themselves entranced when Father Aidan (Lally) comes to visit, bringing his mysterious, legendary book. Aidan takes an interest in Brendan, sparking his creativity and curiosity to venture into the forest outside the walls, where he meets the mysterious Aisling (Mooney).
Not only is this a beautifully simple story about inner yearning and humanity, but there are clear parallels with today's world as an unseen threat of attack warps our priorities and causes us to miss the important things that are happening around us. The film's script touches on all of this without ever being obvious about it, using warmth and wit as well as quietly churning suspense and telling, minimal dialog.
And just as impressive is the way it's been animated by a multi-national crew.
The imagery is simply mesmerising, constantly in motion, playing with depth of field and deftly using colour and texture to create moods and feelings. The drawings are largely flat, and yet they achieve a layering so profound that we often feel like we're falling right into the scenes. The use of colour is especially vivid, sharply creating emotions and suspense.
This is lyrical and clever filmmaking, appealing to the imaginative child inside of us as we remember visualising our bedtime stories springing into action around us. It also playfully approaches a true story from Irish history with originality and skill. It's the kind of movie that will leave children mute with wonder and adults deeply moved. And the sheer magic of the tale feels like a timeless legend that we'll never forget.
Run time: 75 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 11th February 2009
Box Office USA: $0.7M
Distributed by: GKIDS
Production compaines: Gébéka Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 73 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
Director: Tomm Moore
Screenwriter: Fabrice Ziolkowski
Starring: Evan McGuire as Brendan, Brendan Gleeson as Abbot Cellach, Liam Hourican as Brother Tang/Leonardo, Mick Lally as Brother Aidan, Michael McGrath as Adult Brendan, Christen Mooney as Aisling, Paul Tylak as Brother Assoua, Paul Young as Brother Square