The Secret of Roan Inish is a departure for John Sayles, in that his normalcynicism and mildly jaundiced eye is replaced by the completely credulouschild's view, and his film is all the more charming because of it. Inessence, this is a children's movie, and only through Sayles' brilliance arewe adults allowed in.
Roan Inish is a deserted island off the coast of Donegal, where Fiona'smother died and her baby brother was lost at sea. Her father has moved tothe city but Fiona is sent back to live with her grandparents for herhealth. Her grandparents live on the coast opposite Roan Inish, havingmoved off the island at the same time. In fact, the Conneelys have a veryspecial bond with Roan Inish, as Fiona starts to discover as she talks withthe local townfolk, especially to a dark and brooding relative named Tadhg. Tadhg tells her about the selkie -- a shapeshifter of Irish lore who ishalf-seal and half-human -- and why Roan Inish is so important to thefamily. From that, Fiona must unravel the mystery of what happened to herbaby brother.
I don't want to spoil any of the story, so rather than recount any more ofthe plot, I'll just tell you that all the performances are wonderful. MickLally as the grandfather especially shines, as does Eileen Colgan as thegrandmother. Jeni Courtney is terrific as young Fiona and Richard Sheridanas Eamonn, her young cousin, is very good too. In fact, I couldn't pick outany bad performances at all.
The Secret of Roan Inish features some beautiful Irish music, bothinstrumental and Irish-language, and of course features lush cinematographyof the Donegal area and coast. Beautifully shot, wonderfully written andperformed, and masterfully directed, The Secret of Roan Inish will delighteveryone in the family. Don't hesitate to buy or rent thisone.
The film's quiet, natural performances have an almost documentary quality. For a movie that deals with the disappearance of a young child, it is remarkably free of teary-eyed pathos. Instead of empathizing with Fiona's longing for a baby brother, the film concentrates on the coalescing in her mind of a vision of home, family and tradition that is the very essence of her heritage. Like "The Secret Garden," a fable with which it has much in common, "The Secret of Roan Inish" is about finding the strength from within to create your own world.
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