A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: February 3, 2000
- On DVD or streaming: 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
- Last updated: July 27, 2020
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