By Nadia Dalimonte
How enchanting! Wolfwalkers is a magical Irish saga of love, friendship, and female empowerment. Mature and dedicated storytelling bring environmental and philosophical themes to a beautiful fairytale adventure.
The story follows a young apprentice named Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), who lives in Ireland with her loving father Bill (Sean Bean) at a time of superstition, when wolves are seen as evil creatures to be tamed. In a town armed with guards and whispering stories of wolves, the people of Kilkenny never step foot into the forest that sits beyond the gates. Robyn, an adventurer at heart, explores the forbidden forest along with her bird Merlin. Intending to follow her father, who is tasked with hunting and eliminating all wolves, she encounters a wild young girl of mystical powers named Mebh (Eva Whittaker). The two girls form an enchanting friendship that tests her principles and carries them to defend the hunted wolf population of Kilkenny.
Wolfwalkers is the latest from director Tomm Moore and studio Cartoon Saloon, the team behind visionary films such as Song of the Sea (2009) and The Secret of Kells (2014). Co-director Ross Stewart also comes aboard this beautiful adventure. The film explores so many themes in such a mature way, some of which include father-daughter bonding and really coming into your own as an individual. The screenplay is dedicated to exploring the fears that come with parenting and wanting to do what is best. Poignant and energetic voice work adds a deeply resonating layer to the story.
Visually, the delicate watercolour animation and intricate swirling lines are gorgeous. This style of animation fits the storytelling perfectly, particularly in the forest setting. Characters flow into and out of frames like magic. There’s a beautiful fluidity to movement and a fantastic inclusion of seeing this world from the wolves’ eyes, through scent. With gorgeous animation, heartfelt voice work, and a resonating story, Wolfwalkers makes its case for best animated film of the year so far.