It's hard to review A Shine of Rainbows without feeling like a bully who pushes around a sweet and harmless family film probably developed on rolls of Fruit by the Foot instead of celluloid. Part of that hesitance is because I don't want to be like the bullies who torment little Tomás (John Bell) in the Irish-Catholic orphanage. But in the words of Dr Dre: "A bitch is a bitch."
To continue that Dre quote: "And a baby seal is a boy's best friend"—which isn't the only reason to pick on poor Tomás. Even after being whisked from orphanhood by lovely Maire (Connie Nielson) and moved to Corrie Island, a place with more rainbows than people, he still proves himself a wimp. He's afraid of bugs, public speaking and his austere but otherwise nice dad, Alec (Aidan Quinn). I can only guess that the latter fear is probably better explored in the Lillian Beckwith book it's based upon, because when I watch scene after scene of Alec and Tomás quietly glaring at each other with strained eyes, that's all I see—two opposing characters glowering in a cartoonish way.
Alec admits to Maire that he hoped for a "heartier boy," and that's enough to prevent him from signing the adoption papers, which looms over Tomás and is underscored every time Maire coughs. And she starts coughing early in the story, too.
What follows can be affirmed just as prematurely, given that this saccharine story makes a Hallmark card look like a ransom letter and there's no stopping its happy ending. There is potential for the drama to come to life if the story put more emphasis on the hubris of Alec—who only took Tomás as a favour to his nurturing wife—instead of some island folklore about seals delivering messages to the dead and towering rocks which are actually wish-granting kings.
All that spare time that's usually spent watching, emotionally invested and attempting to configure an ending, is diverted to noticing things like Maire's wardrobe, which is surprisingly current when considering the rest of the costumes and sets suggest a time before 1960. Or is it? The vague and unimportant time period is the only interesting thing about this movie.
A Shine of Rainbows
Directed by Vic Sarin
Written by Dennis Foon, Catherine Spear, Sarin
Starring Aidan Quinn, Connie Nielson, John Bell