AFI Fest 2020 Review: Wolfwalkers

Made by the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s Wolfwalkers is the third in Moore’s Irish folklore trilogy, following The Secret of Kells (2009) Song of the Sea (2014). However, this film is so good audiences won’t want him to stop at three entries.

Set in Kilkenny, Ireland, 1650, wolves in the surrounding woods trouble the inhabitants of the walled city. Arriving from England, hunter Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) is tasked with remedying the situation. His young daughter, Robin (Honor Kneafsey), wants to assist her father and take part in the hunt, rather than take up a woman’s traditional chores, which frustrates him.

Disobeying his orders, Robin ventures out to help him and encounters Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a girl her age, who runs with the wolves. A bond of friendship forms between them, both of whom are motherless. Robin’s mother died before the film began. Mebh’s mother went to look for a new place to live with the wolves, but has yet to return. Audiences are given a clue to her whereabouts.

After Robin gets bitten, she becomes a wolf when she falls asleep. In this form, she learns about the creatures, who are troubled by the humans tearing down the woods. Her life becomes endangered as her father, not realizing what has transpired, and others try to kill her. Mebh wants to lead an attack against the humans, and the humans led by Oliver Cromwell “The Lord Protector” (Simon McBurney) are of the same mindset.

The animation stands out as a triumph. From the character design and their movements to how the scenes are framed, the film’s look is captivating. Will Collins’ screenplay creates believable characters in unbelievable situations and after the expected turn for Robin’s character, the story’s resolution is satisfying.

Wolfwalkers is sure to be a classic film animation fans will revisit and future generations will continually discover.  It plays theaters on Nov 13 and debuts on Apple+ on Dec 11.

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Gordon S. Miller

Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of this site. "I'm making this up as I go" - Indiana Jones

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