The Secret of Roan Inish is about a pretty Irish girl named Fiona who goes to live with her grandparents by the sea. There they (and her cousins) tell her stories about how her missing brother Jamie drifted off to sea as a baby in a floating cradle and how her great great great great great grandfather captured a human-seal changeling and married her.
Which sounds a bit crazy, but hey, I like crazy!
Unfortunately, the movie (despite its 98% tomatometer) just isn't very compelling. There never appears to be anything at stake. We never really get a glimpse into Fiona's mindset - why does returning to Roan Inish matter to her? How can she "miss" her baby-brother Jamie who she barely even knew? Does she miss her mother? Does she mind her father being a drunkard? What does she want to be when she grows up? Does she have any hobbies? Does she do well in school? What about boys, is she starting to like boys now?
She's almost a complete blank slate and it's hard to care about someone like that. And when you've got a drama/character-centric story without interesting drama or an interesting lead, then you've got... what, exactly?
Well it's got some myth-telling, some myth-building. But as the line between myth and reality is never drawn, it rather loses its effectiveness. Because a fantasy that's happening in reality... ceases to be a fantasy. That is, it ceases to have magic.
But hey, I did enjoy its quintessential Irishness (and I don't mean shamrocks, leprechauns, and drinking).
Final Say: The Secret of Roan Inish made me feel a bit like an old-timer was telling me about the good ol' times but, when I invented a time machine and actually went back, I discovered that, well, nope, actually the old times were pretty boring.
How to Watch It: The Secret of Roan Inish is portrayed as a children's movie but I honestly can't see a ten, eleven, twelve year old sitting through it. So, um, maybe watch it as part of an Irish movie marathon! Start with The Guard.
Trivia: The actress who played Fiona, Jeni Courtney, just about VANISHED. I spent a non-trivial amount of time trying to track down where she went and... nada. She played in this movie and one other and then... gone.