Brendan is a 12-year old orphan who lives in the Abbey of Kells. His uncle is Abbot Cellach and he is obsessed with building a wall to protect the village from the encroaching Viking invasions. The brothers of the Abbey are supposed to be working on their manuscripts because if there are no books then all knowledge would be lost for eternity
The Abbey receives a visitor. Brother Aidan (Mick Lally)is a true master illuminator who lived on the tiny island of Iona and was working on the ancient Book of Iona. The book, which was started 200 years ago, had writings that is said to glow upon the pages like light. Sinners are said to have been blinded by the page because to gaze upon the book was to gaze upon heaven. Brother Aidan escaped from the Vikings and plans to finish the Book of Iona while at Kells. He shows Brendan the pages that he says will to turn the darkness into light. But the pages are blank. Brother Aidan asks Brendan if he would like to help. This means gathering berries and other things to make the ink, except that Brendan has never been outside of the Abbey.
Accompanied by Brother Aidan’s cat, he ventures out and finds himself surrounded by wolves. The kitty runs off and the wolves scatter shortly after, when the cat returns with a young girl who is a fairy. She agrees to help Brendan as long as he and the cat never come into her forest again. Aisling (Christen Mooney) the fairy is about to show him a secret way to get home but he’s distracted by the cave of the dark one, which is a place of suffering waiting for something to awaken it. She warns him, but he thinks that it’s just superstition and imagined. When he comes back, his uncle admonishes him to never leave the abbey again.
Brother Aidan confesses to Brendan that his eyes are failing and that he will need to finish the pages. But his uncle keeps him busy working on the wall. Brother Aidan tells Brendan that to create the tiny intricate drawings for the book, one would need a special crystal which of course is in the cave of sorrow. His uncle expressly forbids Brendan to go beyond the walls and tells him he can no longer work on the book. Aisling helps him escape from the locked tower by enchanting the cat and having it get the key. She then helps him enter the cave although it is dangerous for her. Brendan returns with the crystal, and Brother Aidan shows his talented apprentice how to create the beautiful drawings. Soon, the Vikings are attacking; they breech the wall and destroy the village and seriously wound the Abbot. Brother Aidan and Brendan escape with the book and charged with finishing it. Years later, the book must be returned to the people to show the way from the darkness.
The Secret of Kells (also known as Brendan and the Secret of Kells) is an Irish animated feature film by Cartoon Saloon and directed by Irish filmmaker Tomm Moore. It was screened at last summer’s New York International Children’s Film Festival. The movie was submitted for consideration only 3 days before the deadline and was nominated for Best Animated Feature for an Academy Award. The animation is highly stylized and brightly colored - so different from what American audiences are used to viewing after a steady diet of Pixar and Disney 2D. Its artistic renderings are extremely fascinating, incorporating Celtic designs and intricacies with a Japanese anime feel. The story gives kids and adults a little bit of family conflict, religion, magic, and history without being offensive. It will probably not bring home the gold statue, but hopefully the nomination will encourage people to see it. (Review by Reesa Cruz Hawkins of Dallas Movie Screenings)