With so many studios gravitating towards lifelike CGI animation, it’s a breath of fresh air when a film like “Wolfwalkers” comes along. This gorgeous, impressive animated feature will transport you back to the glory days of 2d animation, proving that sometimes a traditional approach is the best path to take when telling a particular story.
Set in Ireland circa 1650, the film is based on a Celtic legend that was born in a time of superstition and magic. Robyn Goodfellowe (Honor Kneafsey) travels with her father (Sean Bean) to exterminate the last remaining wolf pack. While exploring the forbidden areas outside the safety of the village walls, Robyn befriends a free-spirited girl named Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a member of a mystical tribe that’s said to have the power to turn into wolves. As the two girls search for Mebh’s missing mother, Robyn discovers a secret that draws her even closer to the inhabitants of the enchanted forest world. Her newfound friendship makes Robyn question why her father was sent to destroy, and she struggles to find the courage and strength to speak out and stand up for what’s right.
There are many complex ideas in this film, and while adults will marvel at the overall sophistication in both themes and beauty, it’s not too challenging for kids. The story offers critiques of politics, religion, power, greed, and gender roles in society.
Robyn longs to run free but is repeatedly told that a lady’s role is doing women’s work as a housemaid in the scullery. The men in charge solve problems with violence, and they refuse to listen to ideas about a more peaceful way to bring harmony between humans and nature. The villagers are taught to fear those that aren’t like them and to hate things they don’t understand. It’s a look at our modern polarized society where the “other” is often declared an enemy without any attempt at compassion or tolerance.
Yes, these are big ideas for a children’s movie, and yes, this is a fairy tale that teaches the dangerous of established oppression. Screenwriter Will Collins goes even further. There are beautiful messages of unity, kindness towards animals, and a gentle push for people to look outside their own comfort zone in order to see the world differently. The characters learn that it may not be the best idea to assert domination over nature rather than learning to coexist peacefully within it. Continuing a welcome trend in movies, the strong female characters are also wonderful role models for children.
The film is so beautifully animated and expertly directed that I feel Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart should be strong contenders for a Best Director award this year. The film achieves a timeless look and feel by the use of hand-drawn animation. “Wolfwalkers” is one of the best of the best when it comes to animated films released in 2020.
By: Louisa Moore