With so many high profile films hitting the streaming services over the past few weeks and more to come in January and February, it’s easy to miss out on some real gems that aren’t getting the Hollywood studio marketing machine treatment. One of those gems is WOLFWALKERS from Ireland. The animated film offers a timeless story combined with captivating visual images that the whole family can enjoy together.
The time is 1650 and the male residents of Kilkenny, Ireland are clearing the neighbouring forest for farming. A pack of wolves, however, isn’t about to give up their habitat so easily and the men regularly fall under attack. Englishman and widowed father Bill Goodfellowe (voiced by Sean Bean, THE MARTIAN; the LOTR trilogy; TV’s GOT) has been hired by the Lord Protector (voiced by Simon McBurney, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING) to rid the forest of all the wolves and he goes out there every morning, leaving his young daughter Robyn (voiced by Honor Kneafsey) at home alone all day to keep their house in order. Robyn fancies herself a wolfslayer as well and, when her father is out, she goes into the woods to hunt the animals, bringing along Merlyn, her pet falcon. It’s on her first real encounter with wolves that she meets the feral Mebh Óg MacTíre (voiced by Eva Whittaker), a young girl who lives in the forest with the canines. When Mebh is awake, she’s a regular girl but when she sleeps, she turns into a wolf. Both she and her mother are two of the mythical wolf walkers. Mebh tells Robyn that Mebh’s mother went missing while she was in her wolf state. Together, the girls search for Mebh’s mother while ensuring that the wolves stay safe from Bill’s crossbow arrows. Bill and the Lord Protector, though, aren’t about to have their mission thwarted by a mischievous little girl.
WOLFWALKERS is a wonderful film! I couldn’t stop smiling throughout. I think the last time I felt that way about a film was when I saw SING STREET. I wonder if I’m Irish inside. The story is well paced for all ages to enjoy, though some young viewers may find the initial minutes a touch scary. It’s the hand-drawn animation, though, that really takes this film to another level. The forest scenes are delightfully ornate and textured with dazzling colours and shapes filling every inch of the screen. Who wouldn’t want to live in the forest when it looks like that? The village, meanwhile, is presented as drab, grey and flat. Of course, being 2020, the film has plenty of teachable moments, including Puritanism, patriarchal authority, gender roles and being friendly to those who are different from us, but the biggest of all is the notion that we are one giant ecosystem and when we find a way to co-exist with our animal neighbours, we are all the better for it.
WOLFWALKERS is available now on Apple TV+. Definitely check it out!
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, January 8th, 8:30 am HK time!
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