Making the Grades
Life for eight-year-old Thomas (John Bell) is cold and colorless. Residing at a home for orphaned boys, the youngster is bullied by his peers and teased for his stammering voice. But the bleakness of his existence unexpectedly brightens when a fiery redhead named Marie O’Donnell (Connie Nielson) appears and tells the boy she wants to adopt him. Whisking him off to her home on Corrie Island, a remote location off the coast of Ireland, Thomas feels the warmth of her love and acceptance almost immediately.
However, his first meeting with Marie’s husband Alec (Aidan Quinn) casts a dark cloud over his new sunny prospects. Obviously displeased that his wife has chosen "the runt of the litter" and resenting the lad’s intrusion into their private relationship, the quiet man deliberately keeps his distance from Thomas. Regardless of his reaction, Marie refuses to let his disapproval rain on her relationship with the child.
Basking in the glow of her indomitable spirit, Thomas begins to grow in confidence. He makes friends at school (played by Jack Gleeson and Tara Alice Scully), overcomes his fear of the local sea creatures and some cave-dwelling bats, and embraces the island folklore Marie shares with him. Although still wary of Alec, he is even able to make a tentative connection with him when the pair finds and tries to save an abandoned seal pup.
Yet, like the elusiveness of the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, Thomas’s hopes for happiness seem beyond his grasp after an unexpected tragedy leaves him adrift in a sea of uncertainty.
Beautifully shot on location in Ireland, and convincingly acted (especially by newcomer John Bell), A Shine of Rainbows is sure to bring a tear to the eye of all who view it. Parents will want to be prepared to discuss loneliness, abandonment, death and grief. (Bringing along a supply of tissues would be a good idea too.)
Still, don’t let these heavy themes scare you off. The movie also offers messages of hope, optimism and the healing power of love. While the story does include some sentimental superstition, it still provides an endearing picture of the human experience—and the essential things all people need to grow and thrive.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about A Shine of Rainbows.
As Thomas tries to cope with Alec’s disappointment with him, he asks Marie why she chose him in the first place. What reasons does she give? What events in her past contribute to the way she sees Thomas? How does her vision help to shape the boy?
How does Marie use the local folklore to assist Thomas in dealing with his sense of loneliness and fear? What other tools does she offer to help him heal from his past?
How does the seal pup’s plight parallel Thomas’s life experience? Is he the only character in the movie who is feeling abandoned?