Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Featuring the voice talents of Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and Simon McBurney.
A young apprentice hunter and her father journey to Ireland to help wipe out the last wolf pack. But everything changes when she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe rumoured to transform into wolves by night.
Like one of those childhood books where you’d get lost in the hand-drawn world opening up at the turn of each new page, and then clasp to your chest before sleep took you to the places held within those stories, Cartoon Saloon’s Wolfwalkers is the same imagination stoking feat of enchantment and wonder.
In fact, each frame feels like a beautifully illustrated page, one that could be ripped from the screen and hung on a wall, but it’s when they’re all put together to tell this fable of friendship that their magic truly takes hold.
Tomm Moore, the dreamweaver behind Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells, once again taps into folklore to tell a story of fractured families. This time it’s the Wolfwalkers, a mythical group of forest dwelling folk who have dominion over the woods and the beasts within, particularly the wild canines, who move in unison behind them like a tidal wave of terror, albeit one animated with a macabre beauty.
They’re under threat from the encroaching English army, led by Simon McBurney and his deliciously villainous voiceover, alongside his chief wolf hunter, who’s brought to life by a gentle, world-weary turn from Sean Bean.
The heart of the narrative comes from his daughter Robyn, a cross bow wielding wannabe hunter, with bullseye skills and rhymes to match – “wolf wolf, kill the wolf, hunt them far and yonder”, who chances upon the flame haired woodland wonder that is Mebh MacTíre. A hyperactive Wolfwalker on a quest of her own, but whose fate is intrinsically linked to that of her newfound friend.
The two of them are a delight to spend time swinging from a branch with. Mebh is frequently hilarious – “What are you so scared of? We’ve got a pack of wolves”, and fiercely loyal to her family, while Robyn’s arc of being awakened from a life confined to a “bucket and brush” existence is the kind of stuff that should inspire every young girl out there. The excellent voice work from Eva Whittaker and Honor Kneafsey also add unseen dimensions to Cartoon Saloon‘s stunning ink-and-paint work.
The character moments frequently hit the box-of-tissues emotional beats, however Wolfwalkers also has some exceptional set-pieces to provide the thrills. The ‘running with the wolves’ sequence features some quite incredible dog-vision animation, which is then utilised wonderfully throughout, and the climatic battle has more moving parts than the end of a Star Wars movie.
A tale of sisterhood, friendship, and acceptance of that which is different, one to counteract the real world outside of the four corners upon which you should watch this marvel play out. Wolfwalkers won’t just make you feel good, it’ll make you feel everything.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter @mainstreammatt