The Secret of Kells (3 stars)

The Secret of Kells

(PG) 78min

Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey’s luscious animated film takes inspiration from The Book of Kells, a key work in Irish medieval history. But rather than the three-dimensional style currently favoured by Pixar and DreamWorks, Moore and Twomey offer a colourful, detailed 2D approach, which makes up for in charm what it lacks in narrative drive.

The Secret of Kells tells of Brendan (Evan McGuire), a young monk whose remote community lives under threat of Viking invasion. The arrival from Iona in Scotland of famed illustrator Brother Aidan (the late Mick Lally) leads Brendan to go against the wishes of Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson) and take a dangerous mission into the magical forest, where he befriends a benevolent sprite (Christen Mooney)

The Secret of Kells artfully makes a case for the value of art and reading, even if the story doesn’t really amount to much. But the animation, which earned the film an Oscar nomination, is a constant source of wonder, reproducing the calligraphy of medieval literature in a rich style that’s somewhere between Terry Gilliam and Richard Williams’ influential but neglected 1993 animation feature The Thief and the Cobbler.

Selected release, Fri 1 Oct.

The Secret of Kells

  • 3 stars
  • 2009
  • Ireland / France / Belgium
  • 1h 18min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Nora Twomey
  • Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Evan McGuire, Christen Mooney, Mick Lally

Luscious and old-fashioned independent 2D animation inspired by Irish medieval manuscript The Book of Kells telling the story of Brendan (McGuire), a young monk whose remote community lives under threat of Viking invasion and his dangerous mission to the dark forest where he befriends amiable sprite Aisling (Mooney).

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