Simply put, the film is a masterpiece. It’s drawn in gorgeous 2-D animation, and from a purely visual perspective I wish it had gotten the Oscar last year (but “Up” is still the better movie overall).
To top it off, “Kells” has a pretty good story: young Brendan lives in a medieval monastery that’s in danger from invading Vikings (yes, I’m taking every excuse possible to showcase movie stills):
Brendan’s uncle, the Abbot, is obsessed with building a wall to protect them from the invasion. Here he is, brooding in his tower while surrounded by construction blueprints:
But all Brendan cares about is helping Brother Aidan with the Book of Iona, an illuminated masterpiece:
Brendan goes into the forest against his uncle’s wishes to find berries for making green ink…
She also knows magic. Here she is with the requisite animal sidekick, just before doing something that will traumatize the cat for life (don’t worry, it’s painless and fairly benign).
At its heart, the movie is about the struggle between practicality and art. The Abbot places all his hopes in the wall; Brendan, in the completion of the book. What good is art when the monks are about to lose their lives? All the beauty and magic of the forest are useless against Viking swords. But Brendan never gives up, and his determination is a testament to the millions who have continued to create art, poetry and music in terrible times. This film is well worth a second, third or even tenth viewing—it will take you at least that long to catch all the visual details. There are swirls and fractals and wriggling doodles galore; even the snowflakes are drawn as complex Celtic knots. As for the Book of Iona, its intricate patterns move across the screen as if breathing. The filmmakers don’t reveal those images until the end, so I won’t spoil it here. Go watch the movie. You won’t regret it.