In The Secret of Roan Inish, ten-year-old Fiona is sent to live with relatives on the Irish coast. She listens intently as her grandfather talks about the ancestral home, the island of Roan Inish, they had to abandon. Fiona is drawn to this place and the stories connected with it. There is one about a creature, half human and half seal, who married into the family. There is also the tragic story of her own baby brother, Jamie, who was carried out to sea in his cradle.

Visiting Roan Inish with her grandparents, Fiona discovers footprints in the sand and ashes in the hearth of the stone house that her family abandoned years ago. Much to her surprise, she sees a little boy who has been living among the island's seals and gulls. She is convinced that her long lost brother is alive.

This lyrical film, written and directed by John Sayles, is based on a 1957 novel by Rosalie K. Fry. The delicate and parabolic story speaks volumes about the spiritual longing for home and the deep meanings which can be conveyed by family stories, communication with animals, and a magical connection with a place.