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 rumored to transform into wolves by night.
The latest film from the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon is ‘Wolfwalkers’, another film that reinforces the studio as the natural heir to Studio Ghibli. In its perfect blend of environmental themes and folklore, it recalls the excellence of ‘Princess Mononoke’ in particular and I found this to be a really moving story about growing up. It also has the catchiest theme song since ‘Moana’, so there’s that as well!
Taking place several hundred years ago in an Ireland still under British rule, the film follows a young girl called Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) who travels to Ireland with her father (Sean Bean), a hunter who has been tasked with wiping out the wolf population who are seemingly tormenting the local townsfolk. Of course, things are not quite as they seem, and when Robyn hears whisperings of ancient magic and of ‘Wolfwalkers’, individuals who are human by day but wolf by night (if you’re looking for a stealth remake of ‘An American Werewolf in London’, this is not it!), her curiosity gets the better of her and she ventures further away from the city walls to discover this hidden society in the nearby forest. This brings her into conflict with both her father and ‘The Lord Protector’ (Simon McBurney), a frightening ruler who is also her father’s employer.
Like all of Cartoon Saloon’s films to date (‘The Secret of Kells’, ‘The Breadwinner’, ‘Song of the Sea’), the film is lovingly crafted with 2D animation, and it uses the framing of fantasy and folklore to tell a simple story about a young girl growing up and discovering who she is and what she stands for (‘The Breadwinner’ of course is not fantasy). The score from regular collaborators Bruno Coulais and Kila is wonderful and the voicework is on point, particularly Sean Bean whose loyal and stoic character recalls his role in ‘Game of Thrones’ as Eddard Stark. Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are clearly an influence, yet Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart are capable of building on that influence whilst putting an original spin on the themes Miyazaki explored, and ‘Wolfwalkers’ is another fine entry in what is becoming a very impressive resume.
Directed By: Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Starring: Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Tommy Tiernan, Jon Kenny, John Morton, Paul Young and Nora Twomey