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The Secret of Kells (2010)



Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 80
Fresh: 73 | Rotten: 7

Beautifully drawn and refreshingly calm, The Secret of Kells hearkens back to animation's golden age with an enchanting tale inspired by Irish mythology.


Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 22
Fresh: 20 | Rotten: 2

Beautifully drawn and refreshingly calm, The Secret of Kells hearkens back to animation's golden age with an enchanting tale inspired by Irish mythology.



liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 9,884

My Rating

Movie Info

Young Brendan lives in the Abbey of Kells, a remote medieval outpost under siege from raiding barbarians. One day a celebrated master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying an ancient but unfinished book, brimming with secret wisdom and powers. To help complete the magical book, Brendan has to overcome his deepest fears on a dangerous quest that takes him into the enchanted forest, where mythical creatures hide. It is here that he meets the fairy Aisling, a mysterious young wolf-girl,

Oct 5, 2010


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March 5, 2010:
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"The Secret of Kells" surprised many when it was announced as one of the nominees for this year's...
June 28, 2009:
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All Critics (80) | Top Critics (22) | Fresh (73) | Rotten (7) | DVD (4)

The story is a bit tangled, and there is too much of it packed into nearly 80 minutes, but little kids won't be bothered when the animation is so magical.

September 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A gorgeous blend of the magical and the gloriously trippy.

August 25, 2010 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
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A breathtaking mixture of Celtic mythology and creative animation.

May 13, 2010 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
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The Secret of Kells has elements of a quest adventure and a coming-of-age story, but it's more beautifully stylized and astutely abstracted than the average kiddie cartoon.

May 6, 2010 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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Just a couple of minutes into this beautifully drawn, intricately rendered Irish import, you understand why the movie earned the Academy's attention.

April 30, 2010 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
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In the end, the film is about a magical book, but you never really have a sense of what makes the book magical.

April 23, 2010 Full Review Source: Detroit News | Comments (12)
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Kells has a decidedly pleasing-to-the-eye, retro-cartoon vibe ( ... ) an intriguing and rare artistic subgenre

November 13, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

Very few animated films have had such a mesmerizing, puzzle-like quality.

September 5, 2013 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm

This is perhaps the most enchanting and zealous animated endeavor you will see this side of the Pixar lineup.

August 29, 2013 Full Review Source:

...there's never a point at which the viewer is wholeheartedly drawn into the admittedly simple narrative.

March 19, 2011 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews | Comment (1)
Reel Film Reviews

A unique film visually, but the story and characters are a bit weak and the pacing is a bit slow.

December 31, 2010 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope | Comment (1)
Laramie Movie Scope

Steeped in both magic and mythology, The Secret Of Kells offers a refreshing alternative to Hollywood fare.

October 11, 2010 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

Combining a classic fairytale trajectory with a singular aesthetic that fuses Celtic and Christian mythology, this stunning film is yet another example of the rude health of contemporary animation.

October 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Film4

Tomm Moore's Irish animation, drawn with painstaking reference to both Celtic myth and medieval manuscripts, possesses a lively originality that shows Europe's animators not far behind America's and in some ways in front of them.

October 6, 2010 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

This understated Irish charmer deserves to reach a wider audience, if only to remind people that animation is a diverse medium that can be exploited in numerous ways to tell all sorts of stories.

October 4, 2010 Full Review Source: Scotsman

Hand-drawn and watercoloured, the animation is as sublime as a stained-glass window.

September 30, 2010 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

The look of the film is simply ravishing.

September 30, 2010 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

A low-key pleasure.

September 30, 2010 Full Review Source: Guardian

A feast for the eyes that manages to be both whimsical and sinister.

September 30, 2010
Little White Lies

While this is a handsome picture that laudably avoids patronising its audience, it's not always as child-friendly as it might be.

September 30, 2010 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

Unlike anything else you've seen, and very much worth seeking out, this is a unique and beautiful creation.

September 29, 2010 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

The movie equivalent of Kim Kardashian - delightful to look at in motion, but after a while you realise there's not a lot going on.

September 29, 2010 Full Review Source: News of the World
News of the World

Engaging, beautifully animated drama that plays like a children's storybook come to life, with a strong message, appealing characters and a distinctive visual style.

September 29, 2010 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

An undeniably gorgeous film... [that takes] some of the most unique pages in history and forces them into the unremarkable mold of every other heroic coming-of-age fantasy.

August 25, 2010 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

Audience Reviews for The Secret of Kells

Laden with the magic of childhood like donuts are covered in powdered sugar this simple tale about the creation of a book is less about story and impact than about mood, memory and remembrance, not about how things are so much as how they seem and a patina of wonder settles over you, the blanket over your head as a child and wondering what all those sounds are out there. The story is a slight and wistful thing, a snowflake melting on your palm, but one that chose to fly to you.
September 25, 2013

Super Reviewer

A rare modern animation with a sense of soul, not directed by the appeal of focus groups. After the opening scene, a young member of my family was already uncomfortable. Our young protagonist has to face fears of the unknown and the film's directors mean to make us an active participant, daring us to keep going along with him. This fear is induced with inventive, minimalist animation and is fed to us in bits throughout the movie, breaking with beautiful, playful, and joyful art and music that left me in awe.
February 4, 2012
Matthew Slaven

Super Reviewer

The biggest surprise of the past year's Academy Awards wasn't the triumph of Kathryn Bigelow or the ominous inclusion of "The Blind Side" to the Best Picture lineup, but rather the nomination of a little Irish film known as "The Secret of Kells," with barely any screenings to its name. The question at the tip of everybody's tongue became: what was the Academy thinking? Yet once "Kells" emerged quietly onto the moviehouse scene, people began to understand. In a year where 3-D glasses and grand IMAX screenings dominated the box office, one can't help but feel that the Academy members that voted for it were onto something, a form of silent rebellion against all things big and explosive.It's rare that the visual components of a film can so completely saturate its entire being. Indeed, the Irish fairytale story seems to exist wholly for the sumptuous drawings depicting it. A flighty little nymph sprite, with her white hair blowing spiritedly in the wind, guides ribbons of smoke along the geometric curlicues of the screen. Armed with nothing but a pencil, Brendan battles the fearsome Krom Kruit as he catapults himself within a milky plasmatic nebula. And then there are the montages, some whimsical, like filigreed clockwork, some impressionistic, like a smudgy Renoir painting, and some brilliantly naturalistic, featuring jeweled leaves with verdure smeared all over its surface.Yet although "Kells" features scenes heavily laden with Irish mysticism and subversively pagan rituals, the film could essentially double as a social allegory for modern film industry. Brother Aidan says dishearteningly to Cellach: "You've forgotten how important it is. All you want for us is this wall!" Just replace "it" with "hand-drawing" and "wall" with "hyper-explosive 3-D graphics," and you've got yourself the perfect antidote to James Cameron and his devoted followers. With a run time of little more than an hour, "Kells" is a refreshingly different take on classic animation, lovingly and defiantly flattened into two dimensions, inspiringly simple - and more than a little trippy. By paying homage to an ancient time where beauty and patience inevitably won out over brute force, the film blends a straightforward morality with sophisticated hand-drawings to stunning visual effect. Truly, it practices what it preaches.
July 30, 2011

Super Reviewer

Animated Irish folk tale about young Brendan, an apprentice in a monastery who becomes obsessed with completing the legendary Book of Kells, a treasured illuminated manuscript. Set in the 9th century, this hand drawn film is a glorious mixture of Celtic art and geometric cubism; sort of The Powerpuff Girls Go to Ireland! in illustrative style. When Vikings attack the monastery, the assault is a brutally gorgeous scene, a stylized war of blood and snow. The problem is with the spiritually muddled narrative. It's random and doesn't flow like a good storyline should. We know from history that the Book of Kells contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. That would explain its significance, yet although Brandon is compelled to finish the text, no explanation is ever given as to why. Additionally, character development is minimal. When Brendan goes out into the woods he encounters Aisling, a magical fairy. She appears at first glance to be just a human girl. Her ability to change form is never explained and a source of bewilderment whenever she is on screen. Other sequences feel too abstract. When he does battle with Crom Cruach, a Celtic snake god, the encounter becomes rather conceptual in style. The odd execution feels lifted from the pages of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Visually, however, this stunning fable is a joy to watch, a luxurious burst of color and glow. The story is admittedly an awkward amalgamation of Christianity and pagan folklore. Nevertheless, every frame is dazzling and the artwork's hypnotic power can be appreciated even when the action is confusing.
March 23, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Aisling: I thought you knew how to climb trees.
    2. Brendan: I do! Just...much smaller ones.
    3. Aisling: Ya, like bushes!
    – Submitted by Dan K (2 years ago)
    1. Aisling: I've lived through many ages. I've seen suffering in the darkness. Yet I have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places. I have seen the book. The book that turned darkness into light.
    – Submitted by Chad E (3 years ago)
    1. Brendan: You can't find out everything from books, you know.
    2. Aidan: I think I read that once.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
    1. Aisling: I've lived through many ages. I've seen suffering in the darkness. Yet I have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places. I have seen the book. The book that turned darkness into light.
    – Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
View all quotes (4)

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Foreign Titles

  • Das Geheinis von Kells (DE)
  • Brendan et le secret de Kells (FR)
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