There seems to be an unwritten rule that family films are mind-numbingly predictable; they traffic in plots and characters so elemental it would make Joseph Campbell blush. So it goes with A Shine of Rainbows. Awkward, stuttering lad Tomás (John Bell) is whisked away from a grim orphanage by smiling, warm-hearted Maire (Connie Nielsen), who takes him to her rural home on a remote island.
Alas for Tomás, Maire’s husband, Alec (Aidan Quinn), isn’t as keen on the adoption. As the film makes very clear with repeated shots of the unsigned adoption papers, Tomás has to win over Alec or it’s back to the orphanage.
We’re not giving away much by saying Alec isn’t as gruff as he first appears. Nor is it hard to guess what will happen when Tomás finds an orphaned seal on the shore.
Bell should steer clear of roles that involve stuttering, but once he gets to the crying scenes you can see why he was cast. And we’ll just warn you that there is plenty of crying. Director Vic Sarin offers up magical whimsy and weepy moments in equal measure, with Irish piping for every occasion laid out liberally on the soundtrack. This is about as subtle as a St. Patrick’s Day parade, but we’ll grant that as kids’ films go, it’s pretty good.