Wolfwalkers is a delightful celebration of sisterhood in its many forms. It encourages humans to bond with animals, nature and our kindred spirits.
Honor Kneafsey (‘A Christmas Prince: A Royal Baby‘) voices the role of Robyn Goodfellowe, a young apprentice hunter, who with her father, Bill (Sean Bean – ‘Possessor‘), have come to the county of Kilkenny to track and kill the last of the wolves that live in the woods outside the city walls. Robyn sneaks into the woods, like the true rebellious daredevil she is, and discovers a hidden world far off the vivid beaten path. There she meets Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a wild girl (who in a different world could be mistaken for the by Don Bluth created ‘A Troll in Central Park‘s next of kin) who was raised by wolves, and has some special abilities she herself is still trying to fully understand. By meeting her fearless new friend, Robyn begins to realize it’s not the forest and its inhabitants that should be feared, but the ones that try so hard to destroy it. As she grows closer to the world she once feared, her relationship with her father is put to the test, as Robyn starts turning into the one thing the entire village despises.
The glorious experimental 2D-animation, is by the Ireland-based team that is best known for its animated feature films The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, and The Breadwinner. The animators take a different approach, showing depth by using geometrical backgrounds to fill the entire screen, to then cut away for a colourful first person point of view. Its voice cast is charmingly expressive, considering the lead voice actor is quite young, but feel quintessential to Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s final chapter in their “Irish Folklore Trilogy”. Even AURORA‘s song “Running With The Wolves” (which was remastered and mixed to fit the film) works well in this wickedly lilting tale, with her voice gracefully sending chills down your spine.
The other thing about ‘Wolfwalkers‘, which will stream later this year on Apple Tv+, is how grown up it feels for a family film. Moore and Stewart deliver their strongest film to date, marking this my favourite film of TIFF20, so far. Besides the storytelling and meticulous world building, the film excels in its sound mixing qualities. The film can be experienced in different ways, wherein you can decide to ignore the talented voice cast and just listen to the score that basically uses sounds of nature as its backing vocals. Birds of all kinds chirping away, water splashing gently, a pack of wolves howling – everything works together as one well trained orchestra, seeping magically through your eardrums.
Visually appealing is an understatement. Moore and Stewart raise the bar for rivaling animation studios by not using popular techniques, while staying true to themselves and bringing extraordinary stories to life. Wolfwalkers is the brightest gem in Cartoon Saloon’s catalog. Wow, just WOW.
TIFF20 Review – ‘Wolfwalkers’
Reviewed online (as part of Toronto International Film Festival), September 13, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 100 min.
PRODUCTION: An Apple Tv+ release of a Cartoon Saloon, Dentsu Entertainment USA, SIF 309 Film Music production. Producers: Paul Young, Nora Twomey, Tomm Moore, Stéphan Roelants. Executive producers: Gerry Shirren, Fabien Renelli, Zhang Shuo, Yang Ying, Didier Brunner, Damien Brunner, Eric Beckman, David Jesteadt.
CREW: Directors: Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart. Screenplay: Will Collins. Editors: Richie Cody, Darren Holmes, A.C.E., Darragh Byrne. Music: Bruno Coulais.
WITH: Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean, Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jon Kenny, John Morton, Oliver McGrath.