Enchanting and mesmerizing are two words that come to mind when describing "The Secret of Kells," a hand-drawn animated film about a young boy in a medieval Irish village who dares to venture beyond the fortified walls of his home to complete an illuminated book of faith and wisdom.
With lively brush strokes that mimic the drawings in the sacred text, the film, directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, takes viewers on an a vivid journey that is at times both stunning and terrifying.
The painted frames would be almost quaint -- what with this era of CG effects and 3D -- were it not for some intense and fiery images that show a countryside threatened by merciless barbarians.
Brendan (voiced by Evan McGuire) is an orphaned boy living with his stern uncle, Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson), in a village surrounded by dangerous woods -- a place forbidden yet enticing to the curious boy.
When a master illuminator named Aidan (Mick Lally) arrives in the village of Kells, Brendan and a group of monks are taken with his incredible talent. But while his life is centered on this important book (what eventually becomes the famous Book of Kells), Aidan tells Brendan that he can't learn everything in books and that Brendan must go to the forest in search of ink-producing berries.
Openly disobeying his uncle, Brendan visits the forest, where he meets the strong-minded fairy/wolf-girl Aisling (Christen Mooney), who has some secrets of her own.
With dreaded barbarians on their way, can Brendan help Aidan finish the sacred book before all is lost?
I watched this film with CC, who was at times attentive and other times a little scared (barbarian silhouettes have a way of doing that), and while "The Secret of Kells" is better suited for older children and adults, its characters were still interesting to her.
Aisling (pronounced "ASH-ling") was of particular interest to her, I assume because she was the only girl in the film. But it was the relationship between Brendan and his uncle that struck me the most.
As a mother, I want to protect my daughter from harmful people and situations (and truthfully, I was a little miffed at Aidan for sending Brendan into the woods, knowingly disobeying his guardian), but it is that idea of letting go, of holding your breath and allowing your child to explore her passions that held me -- and, of course, terrified me more than any barbarian on earth.
*** GIVEAWAY ***
I'm giving away 1 DVD of "The Secret of Kells" ($29.95; from GKIDS.tv and Flatiron Film Company).
Just leave a comment below telling me your favorite Irish story, actor or character.
For more chances to win, follow me on Twitter. I'm at @la_story. Or you can "Like" the L.A. Story Facebook page.
Just be sure to leave extra comments telling me you did so.
Good luck, and I'll announce the winner Monday, Oct. 25!