The Secret of Kells is an animated film set in and around the Abbey of Kells in County Meath in Ireland. It is a fictional (and fantasy) retelling of how the Book of Kells was completed and what those at the Abbey had to go through to protect it.
Brendan has spent his life living with his uncle, the Abbott at the Abbey of Kells. His uncle spends all his time working on a large wall designed to keep the Viking raiders from destroying the abbey and all the villagers who live there. He has forbidden Brendan from going outside the walls, but when Aidan of Iona comes to the abbey after Iona is attacked by Vikings, Brendan goes to find some nuts used to make some of the ink Aidan uses for illuminating the Book of Iona.
In the forest, he meets Aisling, a mysterious girl who knows all about the forest and is also respected by all the animals, including the fearsome wolves which call the forest home. She helps Brendan find the nuts and shows him the beauty of the world outside the abbey walls.
When I first started watching this film, the animation style really threw me for a loop. It is a very unusual combination of 2D and 3D animation which gives everything a very flat feeling while still offering some depth. After researching this a little bit, it seems the animators were trying to give the film the feel of traditional Celtic drawings, and they succeeded magnificently.
Those averse to fantasy films can still enjoy this as the fantasy elements are mostly subtle and peripheral to a lot of the story. Those who like fantasy films can enjoy the fresh take on Irish and Celtic mythology, and the interweaving of actual historical information into the tale. There are a few stylized scary elements which could definitely frighten younger children, but those about 10 and up should be able to handle these scenes as they are not graphic or gory.
I loved this film, and I think it definitely deserves the Academy Award nomination it received. This is definitely a keeper!
Release Date: February 11, 2009 (Ireland/Belgium)
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Violence: 2 (some fantasy violence, some frightening imagery)