I don’t always ‘get’ holidays. Today is Easter, a straight-forward celebration of springtime renewal as signified by the resurrection of Jesus, the Son of the God of the Jews, that American Christians observe by gathering together and eating a spiral ham. It just seems weird, It probably shouldn’t bother me. I’m not Jewish. I’m not concerned with eating kosher any other day of the year. I should get over it. However, I knew that, this year, if I found myself in a large group of ham-eating American Christians, I would be in danger of saying things that would be hard to take back.
Much better to seek out the quiet and contemplative atmosphere of my chosen house of worship, the art house movie theater. Also, Sunday afternoon was my best chance this weekend to hang out one on one with my daughter.
We don’t always get to do things, just me and her. Oftentimes, when we do, it’s homework. But sometimes, when we’re lucky, we get to watch a magical animated film from an island across the ocean. A lot of times that island is Japan, but today, lucky us it was Ireland. We had the treat of being able to watch Song of the Sea at Portland’s Laurelhurst Theater.
Years ago, my daughter and I had seen director Tomm Moore’s earlier film, The Secret of Kells. It was brilliant. In many ways Moore’s work hearkened to that of Hayao Miyazaki, in terms of emotional depth and childlike wonder that belies a spiritual connection to the landscape that is far older than that of our current age. By the same token, Kells was completely Irish in visual style and folkloric texture. When I saw that Moore’s new film was showing at the Laurelhurst, I knew what we were to spend our precious few hours together on Easter Sunday doing.
My daughter took no convincing. She had just this morning decided she was vegetarian and wan’t interested in eating ham, either. So we went to the movies.
As we had hoped, Song of the Sea was beautiful and haunting, and I might have cried a few times. The children at the core of this story, Ben and his sister, Saoirse, live in a lighthouse with their father, having lost their mother when Saoirse was born. Theirs is a fractured family that has some things to overcome before they can heal and move on. And, of course, there are faeries and selkies and a witch and a mean granny and the most loyal and brave dog a boy could ever hope to have. And owls. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the owls are not what they seem.
And, like I alluded earlier, I might have cried a few times.
It was hard not to. In many ways this is a film about honoring loss, the importance of feeling your feelings, and remembering to love what you have. Those three things are tied together so deeply, and if you cut out one of them from your life, you risk cutting out them all and turning stone. It’s a metaphor that the film handles much more elegantly than this brief blog review. And it’s a metaphor that speaks to me directly, because oftentimes I need some extra help feeling my feelings. And sometimes, when I don’t get it, I turn to stone.
The last few years have been tough on my own little fractured family. If I had seen this film with anyone else, or on my own, my heart might have broken in two before I left the theater. But I got to see it with the perfect companion to make it be a healing experience. The ancient Greeks knew that one of the powers of drama was its tendency to provide catharsis, a purging of emotion that leaves the psyche clean and prepared for the next thing life will bring. Seeing this film with my daughter, knowing at every tearful moment I could reach over and grab her hand, let me recognize and appreciate what I have, rather than dwell on what I’ve lost.
Perhaps next Easter, or the next holiday, whichever holiday actually matters, won’t need to be a private affair for my part-time family of two. Perhaps I’ll be ready to more fully include the greater circle of friends and more-than-friends I’ve been adding to my life. And perhaps I’ll even be able to eat ham with Christian Americans. That is, of course, if I haven’t joined my daughter in her vegetarianism.
Song of the Sea — 5 out of 5 Selkie Suits