Set on an island off the Irish Coast, Song of the Sea follows Saoirse (voiced by Lucy O’Connell), a young girl whose mother disappeared under mysterious circumstances when she was born. The loss has caused Saoirse’s older brother, Ben (David Rawle), to resent her presence while Dad (Brendan Gleeson) drowns his loss at the local pub.

Grandma (Fionnula Flanagan) decides to take the two children to the city to raise them, but when Saoirse is removed from the sea, she grows deathly ill, and Ben executes a rescue mission to return Saoirse to the water. The two undertake a long journey that not only binds them together but also uncovers the mystery of their mother and the enchanted island their family inhabits.

Based on Irish folklore and soaked with mythic iconography, Song of the Sea confronts loss and sorrow head-on. Hand-drawn with beautiful watercolor imagery, Song of the Sea is buoyed with childlike wonder as Ben and Saoirse encounter magical creatures—and a slew of adorable seals that will delight many viewers—but it is how writer/director Tomm Moore addresses loss directly that makes Song of the Sea worthwhile for children and adults alike. The loss of a loved one is devastating, but that loss can be confronted with understanding and acceptance, easing the process of moving on.

Song of the Sea is available to stream on Netflix. The above blurb comes from my 2015 Boulder International Film Festival coverage, printed in Boulder Weekly Vol. 27, No. 30, “Best in show.”