'Rainbows' a crowd-pleaser

Family tale A Shine of Rainbows, shot off the coast of Ireland, is a visual beauty.

Family tale A Shine of Rainbows, shot off the coast of Ireland, is a visual beauty.

LIZ BRAUN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:47 PM ET

A Shine of Rainbows is a sweet tale about a little boy and the mother who teaches him to appreciate every nook and cranny of everyday life. When tragedy overwhelms them, her teachings are the key to his survival.

Tomas (wonderful newcomer John Bell) is an orphan. At the orphanage, a bully's comment about bed-wetting tells you everything you need to know about the friendless, weedy boy of about eight years old.

Tomas is shy and artistic, and he stutters — but that doesn't mean he's outside the reach of a miracle. One day at the orphanage he spies a golden angel of a woman, and it turns out she's come to adopt him.

Maire O'Donnell and her husband Alec have no children of their own. After quietly observing Tomas for a while at the orphanage, the sunny Maire (Connie Nielsen) has finally decided that he's the boy she wants. She takes the child home to her remote house on Corrie Island; the child is seasick and worried, and his first meeting with Alec isn't promising.

As Alec, Aidan Quinn is silent and disapproving. He's obviously disappointed in Tomas, and roughly asks his wife why she couldn't have chosen a stronger, more outgoing boy. But Maire knows she brought the right child home.

Under her careful tutelage, Tomas learns to jump in puddles and talk to spiritual baby seals. He learns about nature, makes friends and slowly but surely begins to feel happiness. Maire teaches him to coax eggs from the hens, to understand rainbows and even to cook good stew; the practical and the magical are all mixed together in her world. The child blossoms.

Tomas has a few rough patches with kids at his new school, but generally, his world improves by leaps and bounds. His relationship with Alec is just beginning to thaw, too, but then things change, and that relationship is sorely tested. It will take everything Tomas has to hold on to the joy in life he has discovered.

A Shine of Rainbows is a genial crowd-pleaser with more than a soupcon of emotional manipulation. But never mind; at least it doesn't shy away from the big questions of life and death.

The story is set against the gobsmacking beauty of the Irish coastal landscape, and you can see why director Vic Sarin — who also shot the movie — keeps winning important cinematography awards. The film is visually delightful.

It also has lovely performances, particularly from young Bell, who does a great job as Tomas.

A Shine of Rainbows is a bit too twee for this flinty old viewer, but plenty of other people beg to differ. The coming-of-age story has won awards at several film festivals, and it was co-winner of the 2009 Heartland Film Festival's audience choice award, winner of the children’s jury award at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and best Canadian feature film at the Victoria Film Festival, among other honours.

(This film is rated PG)


Photos