The Secret of Roan Inish

Between land and sea there is a place where myths are real.
14K ratings
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Format:  DVD
item number:  76D6K
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DVD Features:

  • Released: August 4, 2020
  • Originally Released: 1994
  • Label: Samuel Goldwyn Films
  • Encoding: Region 1 (USA & Canada)

Performers, Cast and Crew:

Starring , &
Performer: , &
Directed by
Edited by
Screenwriting by
Composition by
Produced by &
Director of Photography:

Memorable Quotes and Dialog:

"The sea gives and the sea takes away."
  - Grandfather (Mick Lally) to Fiona Coneelly (Jeni Courtney)
"Once a selkie find its skin again, neither chains of steel nor chains of love can keep her from the sea. From that day on, it was forbidden to harm a seal on the island."
  - Tadgh Coneelly (John Lynch) to Fiona

Entertainment Reviews:

Certified Fresh95%

Total Count: 44


User Ratings: 7,306
Rating: 3.5/4 -- It's family entertainment in the best sense of the term. Full Review
TV Guide
Mar 11, 2008
Rating: A- -- One of his most accomplished movies, this is Sayles' corrective fable to a genre thas has favored male protags, exploring another outsider character, a young girl alone in the world. Full Review
Jan 31, 2007
...Casts its intoxicating spell slowly, exuding warmth like a crackling [fire]... - Recommended
Dec 1, 1995
...The film is a pleasure to look at and listen to, graced with a lilting, folk-based musical score....[Sayles] draws strong, sinewy performances from his cast...
Sight and Sound
Aug 1, 1996
Rating: 4/5 -- Unusually sweet Sayles tale.
San Francisco Examiner
Feb 27, 2003
Rating: 4/5 -- A beautifully told faerie tale
Jun 10, 2005
The rhythms are placid and the camerawork (by Haskell Wexler) is simple and unfussy. The film's a charm. Full Review
New Yorker
May 3, 2013

Product Description:

Sent to live with her grandparents in a quaint coastal Irish town, 10-year-old Fiona (Jeni Courtney) is fascinated by the village's rich folk culture--especially the local myths about a half-human, half-seal creature known as a selkie. Fiona becomes convinced that her supposedly deceased little brother is living with the selkies, and she travels to the beautiful, enchanted island of Roan Inish, where her grandparents once lived, to confirm her suspicions.

Based on the book SECRET OF RON MOR SKERRY by Rosalie K. Fry, the film is the first John Sayles picture shot outside the United States. Although the magical realism of the film may seem like a departure for Sayles, who is known for gritty slice-of-life dramas, he has covered fantastic elements before (BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET), and has dealt extensively with the theme of returning to one's roots (BABY IT'S YOU, RETURN OF THE SECAUCUS SEVEN, and PASSION FISH). The film will particularly appeal to children and adults who grew up listening to stories rather than watching them on television, and the special effects--including a magical transformation of a seal into a woman--are meant to replicate the imagination of a rural child unfamiliar with the excesses of mass media. With its gorgeous photography and perfectly paced storytelling, THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH stands as one of the finest folklore-based films ever made.

Plot Synopsis:

Set on the remote west coast of Ireland, this gentle film follows the adventures of a little girl who's driven to explore the site where her little brother was swept out to sea years earlier and who may have been raised by seals. The film is a quiet, enchanting fairy tale from American director John Sayles.


Production Notes:

  • THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH was shown at the 1994 San Francisco International Film Festival.
  • Filmed on location in County Donegal, Ireland.
  • Maggie Renzi, director John Sayles's longtime partner and producer, had read the story as a child. She brought the story to Sayles's attention, suggesting that there were not enough intelligent films for children.
  • "The original story was set in Scotland, but I knew that myth from a similar Irish story. I'm much more versed in Irish literature and culture, so I knew I would only have to do half the research if I made it Irish."--Sayles to Kenneth M. Chanko of the Boston Globe (February 19, 1995)
  • The film marks the first screen appearances of Jeni Courtney (Fiona), Richard Sheridan (Eamon), and Cillian Byrne (Jamie).
  • When Sayles's crew first arrived in northwest coast of County Donegal in Ireland, they had to dispel a rumor that they were Mormons intent on stealing the town's children.

    For some of the flashback sequences, Sayles didn't use cuts or dissolves; instead, he panned to a different scene, so as to emphasize the connection between the past and the present.
  • The film grossed $6.1 million domestically.

Product Info

  • Sales Rank: 41,361
  • UPC: 857789008730
  • Shipping Weight: 0.21/lbs (approx)
  • International Shipping: 1 item

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