The Secret of Roan Inish is one of those movies that most people haven’t seen, or, if they have, they only remember it as “that one with the seals.” It’s a 1994 independent film, so it’s no wonder most people haven’t heard of it. I liked this movie as a kid, but never really thought of it as anything particularly special until I purchased a copy as a college student. I think I watch it more now than I ever did as a child.
A summary: Fiona, a young Irish girl, is sent away from her father’s work and life in the city to live with her grandparents in a fishing village. She hears stories about the family’s evacuation from their home on Roan Inish, her great-great grandfather, selkies, and her presumed-dead baby brother who was lost in the evacuation. And, as these stories take hold of her, she works to bring her family back to the island. It’s a simple little movie with a simple little story and I love it.
And it’s a great source of inspiration for mori (or hama) kei inspiration.
The setting for this film is absolutely stunning. There are beautiful shots of seals swimming accompanied by sweeping wide shots of water and island houses with thatched roofs.
And the clothes. This movie is a beautiful mishmash of comfortable sweaters, simple hats, and just-worn-enough clothes. There are really fun little details everywhere. Fiona's wardrobe in particular is an exercise in layering: sweaters over simple dresses...
Sweaters over sweaters...
Sweaters over blouses...
A coat over a blouse and skirt...
And even a dress layered over a sweater and a skirt.
Headwear and hairstyles in this movie are a delight. With the notable exception of the grandmother character, almost every woman in the film keeps her hair soft and natural. Fiona in particular has a very mori-appropriate hairstyle through most of the movie, with her hair parted to the side and kept out of her face by a scrap of fabric or ribbon tied around a section opposite the part. It's simple and cute but still looks lovely.
And, if you're looking for some more boyish clothes, this movie has them in spades. Almost every man wears loose, worn-looking shirts, pants, and suspenders,
Sometimes, they wear a vest over it.
Sometimes, they even get into the layered sweater act.
There are also stories that take place in a pseudo-mythical past that appears to be in the late 18th or early 19th century, given the ban on speaking Irish, the style of schooling, and the clothing worn by the children. There isn't much of this time period, unfortunately, but the clothing is all simple and homespun looking.
Speaking of mythical, of special note is Noula. Also called the selkie and "The Dark Woman", this character is played by Susan Lynch. If you asked six-year-old me what a selkie looked like, I'd point to her with not a moment of hesitation.
This character wears mostly loose shifts in neutral colors. Her most striking dress is this white one that hardly counts as more than a nightgown. She also has a dark dress with a loose bodice and dropped, gathered waist.
If you're looking for the simplest possible mori girl inspiration, it's her. Wild curls and simple, shapeless dresses. She might only be a small part of the film, but she makes a huge impact.
If you like what you're seeing here, I highly recommend that you check out The Secret of Roan Inish, because I think it might be one of the most mori-appropriate movies I've ever seen. It's a quiet little story with a great soundtrack, excellent costuming, and a story that finds a perfect balance between the magic of childhood and the reality of adulthood.