Director: Tom Moore & Ross Stewart
Starring: Eva Whittaker, Honor Kneafsey, Sean Bean
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: In a time of superstition and magic, a young English girl, Robyn Goodfellowe, journeys to Ireland with her hunter father so he can track and kill a local wolf pack. While forbidden by her father to explore the outside of the city walls, Robyn sneaks out and befriends a free-spirited girl, Mebh, a member of a mysterious tribe connected to the wolves. As Robyn uncovers the secrets of Mebh’s tribe and searches for her missing mother, she falls afoul of the cruel Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell, who seeks to rid the land of these wolves and Irish myths and tales.
Cartoon Saloon has been making waves in the animation industry for over a decade now with a handful of highly regarded films that invoke all the (line) of 2d animation. Now compared to the heavyweights in the industry such as Disney and Studio Ghibli, this small Irish studio has captured the imaginations of viewers all across the globe, has critics raving about them, and been nominated for every prestigious film award out there numerous times. If I’m laying it on thick, it’s because Wolfwalkers is the shining example of their years of experience and talent encapsulated in a single film. Also, I must admit it’s their first film I’ve seen (I’ll hand in my Irish passport and scream Amhrán na bhFiann for 4 hours each day until I overcome this shame).
Setting the film in the 17th century during Cromwell’s occupation of Ireland is a bold choice considering it’s one of our small island’s darkest moments in history. Fortunately, this grim backdrop is pivotal to the film with the w*nker himself, Oliver Cromwell, showing up himself in all his unholy glory. Cromwell’s desire to eradicate the wolves and “tame” these unruly lands and its people reflects the real-life figure who committed genocide across Ireland with the intent of pacifying us and stripping us of our culture, an important theme that plays throughout Wolfwalkers. The film has its share of dark moments but is alleviated by moments of magic, wonder, and friendship.
The film is gorgeous with 2D Animation unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The art style encompasses hand drawn visuals, woodblock aesthetic, and geometric animation for a stunningly intricate looking film with lush backgrounds and kinetic characters who move gracefully from frame to frame. Wolfwalkers quite literally looks like poetry in motion.
The voice cast is made up of both Irish and British talent, Sean Bean being the highest profiled actor attached to the film. Eva Whittaker and Honor Kneafsey do a fantastic job voicing the two leading girls, injecting outstanding personality into each character and bouncing off one another, creating a believable bond between the two girls. Hearing a young Irish girl spouting off Irish jargon with a strong country accent brought such a wide smile to my face and had my heart soaring. Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan brings a great sense of country brogue and tomfoolery as well to his hapless farmer role. Sean Bean does a superb job of playing against type in a far more vulnerable and soulful role than expected.
Wolfwalkers is a beautiful film, and the best animated film I’ve seen in years due to its sheer creativity and confidence from the artists who use a wide range of techniques and line drawing to bring the film to life. Tackling numerous themes such as religion vs folklore, oppression, colonization, kinship, and female empowerment, Wolfwalkers story covers each topic thoughtfully with a wonderful story that left me teary-eyed by the final credits. A triumph for the Kilkenny studio and one of the greatest films to come out of this small island.
Pints of Guinness