The Apple Original animated movie, Wolfwalkers, is an engrossing, aesthetically pleasing, coming-of-age story full of fantasy, action, and adventure.
A young huntress named Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) follows her father (Sean Bean) on a hunting expedition to wipe out the last of Ireland’s wolves. It’s on the hunt where Robyn meets, Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a mysterious young woman who is human by day, and wolf by night. Mebh is what’s known as a ‘Wolfwalker’, and the pair quickly form a friendship. Robyn soon comes to realize that wolves are not the enemy, and should be protected, therein beginning Robyn’s quest to convince her father to save the wolves, especially after she obtains the Wolfwalker power herself.
Wolfwalkers is an Apple Original film and the latest from the award-winning Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, whose credits include Song of the Sea (2014) and The Breadwinner (2017). It features a story with universal themes about tolerance, acceptance, compassion, and conservation, animated in a brilliantly vibrant hand-drawn style. It’s the animation style that’s the biggest standout from the film and makes for a nice respite from the 3D-modelled animation we’re used to seeing in the majority of new animated films. Its style is a throwback to animated movies of the past and genuinely feels like a breath of fresh air in this space.
Wolfwalkers is set in period-era Ireland, which also adds to the nostalgic vibe of its visual aesthetic. Through its detailed production design, the audience is transported to a time of folklore and mythology, with relatable characters that can be empathized with. Robyn is a well-meaning young woman who is open to understanding the more peculiar aspects of the world she inhabits, while her father, Bill, is the traditional protector figure in her life, and will stop at nothing to make sure his daughter is safe from harm. Mebh represents the inner wild-child in people and teaches Robyn that there’s more to life than traditions and customs and that a book should not always be judged by its cover. These are valuable lessons for the film’s younger audience, and a good refresher in values for older viewers.
Directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart set a pace for the film that keeps viewers engaged from start to finish, balancing a perfect blend of fantasy, action, and adventure with charm and emotion, giving Wolfwalkers the opportunity to stand on its own merits as something out of the norm for modern animated films, yet something that’s compelling enough to compete with the best of them. It’s a fun ride and there’s something in it for everyone, with a gorgeous animation style that’s been sorely missed in recent years.
It became the first animated feature to be nominated for “Best International Feature” at the Gotham Awards.