Secret of Kells, The

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Short takes

Not suitable under 6; not recommended under 7; parental guidance for 7 year olds (scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Secret of Kells, The
  • a review of Secret of Kells, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 15 December 2022.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 6 Not suitable due to scary scenes.
Children aged 6 Not recommended due to scary scenes.
Children aged 7 Parental guidance recommended due to scary scenes.
Children over the age of 7 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Secret of Kells, The
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild violence and some scary scenes
Length: 149 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Set in 9th century Ireland, Brendan (voice of Evan McGuire) is a young boy growing up in the Abbey of Kells under the watchful eye of his strict uncle, Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson). In the scriptorium, Brendan listens to the stories of the older Brothers and is intrigued by the story of the Book of Iona, written by Brother Aidan, (Mick Lally) an illuminator, which is said to bring light to the darkness. The monks are living in very dark times as the Vikings are expanding into Ireland and attacking the abbeys and churches indiscriminately. Abbot Cellach is building a wall to defend Kells’ Abbey in the event of an attack by the invaders.

After such an attack, Brother Aidan escapes from Iona with his cat, Pangur Bán, to Kells. Brendan is thrilled to finally meet his hero and is honoured when Aidan seeks his help to complete the Book of Iona. Aidan sends Brendan on a mission into the forest to collect berries that will create green ink. Brendan has never been outside of the abbey before so it is with great courage that he steps into the unfamiliar world. There he meets Aisling (Christen Mooney), a mysterious, fairy-like girl, who helps Brendan with his task. Abbot Cellach, however, is not pleased with this arrangement and locks Brendan up in the tower. When the abbey is eventually attacked by the Vikings, the wall does not hold and the lives of all of the inhabitants are threatened. Aisling comes to the rescue of Brendan and Aidan. Brendan and Aidan travel across Ireland for many years, during which they finish the book, which becomes known as the famous Book of Kells.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Fantasy; Magic; Irish folklore; Supernatural; Mythology; Paganism.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie, including:

  • Some slapstick violence such as characters falling over into the mud. Other characters all falling over each other.
  • Brendan falls off the scaffolding.
  • A goose has its feathers plucked and bites a man.
  • A wolf approaches Brendan and Pangur Bán, gnashing its teeth. Brendan and Pangur Bán try to hide on a rock but they are soon surrounded by a pack of wolves all gnashing their teeth and snarling at them. The wolves take Pangur Bán.
  • The spirit of the dark cave is a serpent who chases Brendan and tries to eat him. The serpent opens its mouth wide on several occasions. Brendan and the serpent fight.
  • The Abbey of Kells is attacked by the Vikings who send flaming arrows over the wall. An arrow hits Cellach who falls to the ground, seemingly dead, but he isn’t. The Vikings then storm the abbey, wielding swords and setting the abbey on fire. Screams are heard from the inhabitants who were hiding inside the abbey.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Black wolves with red eyes and gnashing teeth.
  • Black, horned characters carrying spears, also with red eyes.
  • Aisling turns from a wolf into a girl and back again.
  • Abbot Cellach is an intimidating character, very tall and foreboding.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • The start of the film shows a man in a dark hood with a sword, running from wolves. Thunder and lightning are seen with flashes of axes and spears.
  • Brendan dreams of dark characters (Vikings) holding fire torches and attacking the abbey. He sees them wielding swords as blackbirds fly above, screeching.
  • Pangur Bán jumps on Brendan, scaring him, when he tries to open the Book of Iona.
  • Aidan tells Brendan that he lost his brother to the invaders.
  • Brendan goes warily into the forest. It’s dark and scary, with lots of noises from birds and other creatures. Brendan is scared by the blackbirds who screech. A pair of green eyes peer out from behind the trees.
  • Aidan is seen fleeing from Iona Abbey after it has been attacked and is completely destroyed by fire.
  • Brendan tells Aisling that he has no family. She says she hasn’t either.
  • A dark cave surrounded by stone statues is known as the cave of the Dark One, Crom Cruach, and is called a place of suffering. Aisling tells Brendan that Crom Cruach took her mother. She is visibly scared by the cave and warns Brendan against entering.
  • Aisling transforms Pangur Bán into a spirit creature so it can fly into the building to collect a key.
  • Brendan enters the cave of the Dark One, with Aisling’s help. She lifts a heavy stone and her face appears to crack into an old woman.
  • Brendan encounters the pagan spirit serpent of the dark cave, who tries to eat him.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • None noted.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

  • None noted.

In a nutshell

The Secret of Kells is an animated family movie that tells the story of the origin of the Book of Kells. The movie is full of Irish folklore, music and Celtic charm. However, it is quite intense as it is set in the period of the Viking invasion, showing many scenes of attacking and burning of buildings. It is therefore not suitable for children under 6, not recommended for children under 7 and parental guidance is recommended for 7 year olds.

The main messages from this movie are that light overcomes darkness; and to stand up for what you believe in.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Courage
  • Bravery
  • Hope
  • Loyalty
  • Determination.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • How life was very different back then to now. It was very austere and children with no family were often sent to monasteries and abbeys to bring them up.
  • There is a mixture of Christianity and paganism, which might need to be explained to children.