The Secret of Roan Inish Movie Poster Image

The Secret of Roan Inish



Gentle Irish folk tale of a young girl's island odyssey.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2000
  • Running Time: 103 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Myth and folklore can enrich our lives; exploring even the most fantastical tales can provide unforeseen rewards. Seals and birds are given new dimension and inspire a deeper respect from the viewer. This film can be used as a springboard for further study of both animals and folk tales.

Positive messages

Two big messages resonate: That humans and creatures in the animal world are dependent upon one another and deserve to be treated with mutual respect, and that the legacy of the past, combined with faith and tenacity, can result in miraculous discovery.

Positive role models

While usually obedient and respectful, Fiona is also spirited and follows her heart. She accepts the consequences when she has made a mistake. She is willing to venture out of her "comfort zone" to learn new things and explore the world. The grandparents, while superstitious and strait-laced, are caring, responsible adults who love Fiona.

Violence & scariness

Birds attack two men while another bird pushes a baby in a cradle into the sea. The floating cradle is lost at sea in a fierce storm. A character suddenly stabs a knife into a table top in a moment of great anger.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Men seen drinking in a pub. Possibly drunk patron with beer in hand asks that his daughter be taken to live with her grandparents. Mention made of pub drinking on several occasions.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that some images in this film may be frightening to young children: a cradled infant boy floats into the stormy sea and disappears while birds attack two men on the shore, preventing them from rescuing the baby; a "Selkie" (legendary seal) unsettlingly sheds its skin to become a woman. The opening scene takes place at the funeral of a young mother; the sound of a wailing baby intensifies the sadness. There is a startling moment when a young man suddenly stabs a knife into a table. Stories and superstitions are related throughout, some of which humanize sea creatures and sometimes make them appear threatening. Drinking takes place in local pubs. A naked toddler runs along the beach in several sequences.

What's the story?

After the death of her mother, Fiona's father sends her to a remote Irish coastal village to live with her grandparents. The adventurous 10-year-old closely bonds with her family and explores their old home on an isolated, nearby island. Moved by the legendary stories she hears (including the tale of an ancestor was believed to have been a "Selkie" -- a seal who sheds her skin to become human), Fiona searches for Jamie, her infant brother who was carried out to sea in a cradle years earlier.

Is it any good?


This is a lyrical, quiet movie about a child's faith in miracles. The folkloric tale is spun in an idyllic setting with great respect for the wonders of animals and nature. In his first "family" film, writer-director John Sayles brings to life, and blends, myth, tragedy, and joy. The film will appeal to both children and grown-ups, and can best be enjoyed together.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about folk tales. Why is this movie considered a folk tale? How are such tales passed from one generation to another? What do you think happens to the stories as they are recounted over the years?

  • Why was the sea so important to the people in this movie? Why was it important to Fiona?

  • The filmmakers used music, sound, and close-ups to illustrate the power and vastness of nature. Were they successful? How did each of these devices increase your experience?

  • What other movies have you seen that might be considered folk tales or legends? How do these differ from fairy tales?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 3, 2000
DVD/Streaming release date:July 25, 2000
Cast:Eileen Colgan, Jenni Courtney, Mick Lally
Director:John Sayles
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Run time:103 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:scenes that might be unsettling for young children

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Parent of a 5, 9, and 11 year old Written byrgh March 9, 2009

Beautiful Family Freindly Film

This film will hold the attention of people of most ages. It starts slow but steadily draws you in. My (sensitive) 9 year old was a little spooked when the selkie turned into a human, but it did not bother my 5 year old in the least, although the story may have been a little over his head.
Teen, 14 years old Written bylotterz April 28, 2009

I'm 14 and I LOVED IT!! :)

I am 14 years old and we watched the movie in my music class. I thought it was very nice and had great footage of Ireland. I would give it an 8 out of 10. My only complaint is that some of the shoots were a little bit long and it was hard to understand what the characters were saying at times.
Kid, 12 years old November 26, 2011

Wonderful culturally endorsed movie!!! :D FANTASTIC

I love this movie! The Secret of Roan Inish is a great movie to watch with family. Its a nice relaxing movie that gives off positive messages to viewers about loving your family as well as your surroundings. The whole movie is a wonderful, extremely cultural experience the whole family will enjoy! Besides a smoke on the pipe and extremely minor drinking one scene, THIS MOVIE IS A+
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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