'A Shine of Rainbows'

Irresistibly good-natured even when it's cheesy.

Irresistibly good-natured even when it’s cheesy, “A Shine of Rainbows” follows an 8-year-old Irish orphan who rediscovers love and trust with the help of his adoptive parents and some extremely smart and powerful seals. The lush Corrie Island setting helps, as do fine performances from Connie Nielsen, Aidan Quinn and, as young Tomas, newcomer John Bell, who bears a strong resemblance to the Macaulay Culkin of “Home Alone.” With its power-of-love formula and faint hint of magic realism, “Rainbows” could shine anyplace there’s an audience for old-fashioned family fare.

Bullied at his orphanage in the city, the painfully shy and tentative Tomas is rescued by saintly Maire O’Donnell (Nielsen), who brings him to the lovely seaside cottage she shares with husband, Alec (Quinn), on Corrie Island. Unfortunately for wide-eyed Tomas, Alec seems to dislike him from the first moment they meet, sensing the boy’s weakness and failing to hide his disappointment that Maire didn’t bring home a tougher, more adventurous kid.

Fearful of new relationships, Tomas — whose chores include sweeping the O’Donnells’ chicken coop — is only a little soothed by Maire’s promise that there’s a “tender heart” underneath Alec’s gruff exterior. Meantime, Maire gradually brings Tomas out of his shell by introducing him to a pair of neighbor kids, to seals that come when called, and to a rainbow that occasions the boy’s first toothy smile.

Tomas’ happiness is short-lived, though, as Maire grows ill and must check into a hospital, leaving the poor orphan bereft once again. The possibility that Alec could step up and be a supportive father seems to increase as he and Tomas work together to rehabilitate a beached seal, which the boy immediately recognizes as a fellow orphan. It’s no great surprise when this cute seal comes to factor significantly in the story’s miraculous resolution, but if anything, the melodrama goes even further over the top than one could’ve thought possible.

Shooting the film himself, director Vic Sarin strikes a pleasing balance between realism and fantasy in the widescreen images. The traditional Irish music of Keith Power serves the mood capably, while other tech credits are tops, with the exception of Tomas’ regrettably puppet-like seal pal.

A Shine of Rainbows

Canada-Ireland

Production

A Seville Pictures (Canada) presentation, in association with Telefilm Canada, the Corus Family Feature Film Fund, the Shaw Rocket Fund, Astral Media, the Harold Greenberg Fund, the Irish Film Board, of a Sepia Films (Canada)/Octagon Films (Ireland) production. (International sales: Sepia, Vancouver.) Produced by Tina Pehme, Kim Roberts, James Flynn. Executive producers, David Reckziegel, John Hamilton, Morgan O'Sullivan, Laura Rister. Associate producers, Suzanne McAuley, John Bolton. Directed by Vic Sarin. Screenplay, Sarin, Catherine Spear, Dennis Foon, from the novel by Lillian Beckwith.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor, Deluxe color, Panavision widescreen), Sarin; editor, Alison Grace; music, Keith Power; production designer, Tom McCullagh; art director, Heather Greenlees; costume designer, Susan Scott; sound (Dolby Digital), Dan Birch; sound designer, James Wallace; visual effects supervisor, Dermot Shane; assistant director, Konrad Jay; casting, John Hubbard, Ros Hubbard. Reviewed on DVD, Vancouver, Oct. 15, 2009. (In Vancouver Film Festival -- Galas; London Film Festival -- World Cinema; Toronto Film Festival -- Sprockets Family Zone.) Running time: 101 MIN. (English dialogue)

With

Maire O'Donnell - Connie Nielsen Alec O'Donnell - Aidan Quinn Tomas - John Bell Seamus - Jack Gleason Katie - Niamh Shaw Nancy - Tara Alice Scully
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