“Skellig: The Owl Man” may not be a hoot but it is definitely a compellingly original piece of fantasy filmmaking.
The new fantasy flick based on David Almond’s popular children’s book is a very peculiar creature. The movie is certainly well-made but it is often slow-moving and features dreadfully dark imagery. What sounds beautifully imaginative on paper comes across as quite horrific on the screen.
Bill Millner plays a young boy named Michael, who has just moved into a new home with his father and pregnant mother. His baby sister has not even been born yet and Michael is already feeling forgotten. Michael’s troubles worsen when the baby is born premature and with a heart problem that could end her extremely short life.
While his mother (Kelly Macdonald) remains at the hospital to watch over the baby and his father (John Simm) has somewhat of an emotional breakdown, Michael is left to his own devices. Before long, Michael discovers that his new home’s backyard garage has quite the unusual occupant – a hardened (literally) man who feeds on insects and has atrophied wings wrapped around his back.
Michael tries to befriend the man (Tim Roth) with little luck. But Michael persists, even bringing a neighbor (Skye Bennett) to come see the man. The boy also does everything in his power to protect his reluctant friend. And when he discovers the man happens to has the ability to cure injuries, Michael is filled with hope.
It takes quite a while before “Skellig: The Owl Man” picks up enough steam to get the viewer interested in the slowly unfolding story. It takes even longer for the movie to show us Skellig’s wings (much less learn his name). And when we do see them, it is not a pretty sight.
Skellig and his wings are quite grotesque – especially for a character in a family flick. The themes in the movie are also either too serious or too creepy for young audiences. And seeing as the plot moves as a pace that is similar that of the snails Skellig consumes, it is hard to imagine children embracing this particular tale.
Having said all of that, there is something oddly alluring about the film from a purely cinematic point of view. In fact, “Skellig: The Owl Man” is so uniquely bizarre that it garners a light recommendation from me. I sincerely do not know for whom this movie was made but something this strange must be worth a look.
Moreover, the acting performances in “Skellig: The Owl Man” are surprisingly strong. One may never look at Roth the same way ever again. He truly embodies this very weird character, making a complete transformation. Millner (“Son of Rambow”) does great, too, but Bennett steals every scene in which she is featured with her enormously incredible charm.
Originality and great acting aside, “Skellig: The Owl Man” is a tough nut to crack. If young audiences are able to make it through the entire film, they may be plagued by nightmares. However, older audiences, especially those who are fans of the “Harry Potter” and “Narnia” franchises, very well may like what they see.
“Skellig: The Owl Man” (PG – 104 minutes) is now available on DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley.