The Secret of Roan Inish

You’ve never heard of this movie, right? It isn’t widely known, that’s true, but… I really don’t know what to say about this movie. It is as familiar to me as my own family. Let me explain that a little: when I was very young (4-5 years old) I lived in Alaska. Now, I don’t know if any of you live or have lived in a place like Alaska, but in the winter you pretty much spend most of your time indoors recharging after spending time sledding or running about in the snow. To get a little peace from me and my brother (then 7) my mom rented this movie from Blockbuster. It didn’t work on him, but I completely loved the movie. Every time we went to the video store I rented it, no matter what else my parents recommended. After around the fifth time my mom bought me a copy. Since then I think I’ve seen it over a hundred times. I can quote the movie from heart start to finish. I honestly don’t quite know how I am going to review it, since I’ve known it for as long as I can remember. Since I am heavily biased, I won’t put numerical ratings. Just know I love this movie as much now as I did when I was a little kid.

This is an Irish movie. As people search for work wherever they can find it they abandoned old villages for large cities. Roan Inish was an island owned by a family. For generations the family has lived on the island surrounded by it’s mystery and mythology and are as much a part of the island as it’s animals. But as times changed they decided to abandon the island for the mainland. When the family loaded all their possessions onto a boat a mysterious storm grew. The youngest child on the island, Jamie, was on his cradle meant to rock in the waves when a sudden current swept him out to sea. No matter how the family tried to catch up to him, the seals and birds stopped them. Jamie was declared dead and the family swore off ever returning to the island.

A couple of years later Fiona, Jamie’s elder sister (very young on her own, 9-12 ish) is sent to live with her grandparents by her father (her mother had died giving birth to Jamie). Her grandfather is a fisherman, and his heart clearly lies with Roan Inish, but her grandmother hates any mention of the place. When Fiona goes with her grandfather on a fishing trip he leaves her on Roan Inish (so long as she doesn’t tell her grandmother). Fiona begins to realize the mystery of the island the moment she steps upon it. In one of the houses is a board with neatly arranged shells. When climbing the cliffs she sees a dark haired young boy, who flees from her. Old sailor’s tails and myth tells her this is Jamie, her lost brother, who some believe is still alive.

Fiona learns the family history at last from her relatives. Her ancestor was caught in a shipwreck, where he was washed ashore half-dead on an island inhabited by women. They saved his life and he grew up with them until one day while out in the waters he spotted a Sylkie (a seal who could remove it’s skin, revealing a beautiful woman). He stole the Sylkie’s skin and married her. Years later (and a few kids) she was reunited with her skin and never seen again, though the seals of the island always kept close watch on the family.

Fiona comes to believe that if she can bring her family back to the island then Jamie will be returned to them. The movie is about her discovery of Roan Inish and her pursuit to find her brother again.

This movie is absolutely perfect, no flaws whatsoever. I don’t know what to say about it. The acting all feels natural and seamless. Fiona is played perfectly, as is the grandfather and cousin.

Fiona's ancestor and his wife the Sylkie

Like I said in the intro, I’ve been watching this movie as long as I can remember. I know every scene and every line by heart. You really should try to track down a copy somewhere. The theme song for the movie, “The Butterfly”, is my favorite song of all time. I posted the links to each part of the movie on YouTube below. Seriously, set aside time to watch this film… It is the standard to which I have always held movies. I still have my VHS copy of this, I never bought a DVD, and I really can’t imagine anyone not liking this. If you have kids, show it to them.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

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