I’d heard that a project was afoot for an animated movie based on The Book of Kells, one of the worlds most beautiful illuminated manuscripts, and I was really looking forward to it. I expected to be impressed, maybe even amazed if I was lucky.
I did not expect to be so utterly charmed.
This is a movie with a kid-accessible plot. The hero, Brendan, lives with his uncle, an abbot, who is trying to build walls strong enough to withstand the invading North Men. Brendan is forbidden to go beyond the growing walls. Enter another monk, Aiden, carrying a beautifully drawn book. Brendan is fascinated and wants to help in its completion, which he does first by, you got it, heading outside the walls. The first time it’s for berries to make a particular green ink. There he meets a magical little girl, and we’re off to the races. That the moral is that books are stronger than walls comes as no surprise, but the journey is highly enjoyable in the way that Hayao Miyazaki best kids movies are enjoyable. Italso features one of the best fights with a dragon in movies
But what really, REALLY makes it is the animation. It’s gorgeously stylized and rich with detail and complexity. But more than that, the artists play with your perception and expectation to help tell the story, to amuse and delight, but never in a way that distracts from the story-telling. The visuals enhance and support what’s happening, they fit in with the emotions and wonder of the boy’s discovery and growth, bolster and expand on it in the way a really well-crafted sound track can.
If you can catch this in the theater, do. Otherwise, it is most definitely worth reserving on your favorite entertainment delivery surface.