Moria praises the performances. Rolling Stone says, "Alive with beauty, spirit and wit, Roan Inish is pure magic." Spirituality & Practice calls it a "lyrical film" and says, "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." Time Out says, "Tales within tales, a subtle sense of economic and social realities, fine landscape photography and strong performances make for an engrossing, unusual fantasy." Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says, "Not so much a children's film as an adult film in which the children and animals are graceful presences, this is a charming, genuinely moving gem". EW gives it a B+ and says, "Only when the last seal has looked squarely into the camera do you realize how notably unsentimental and casually magical Inish is". DVD Verdict says, "It is rare to find a movie so simple yet so beautifully complex and one that can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter what generation they come from." Roger Ebert gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and says,
Of course this is a wonderful "family film," if that term has not been corrupted to mean simpleminded and shallow. Children deserve not lesser films but greater ones, because their imaginations can take in larger truths and bigger ideas.... It is also for adults, of course, except for those who think they do not want to see a film about anything so preposterous as a seal-woman, and who will get what they deserve.Rotten Tomatoes has a critics review of 98%.