Wolfwalkers (2020)

The best animated film of 2020, Tomm Moore’s enthralling third feature is a masterful folkloric take on heroes and villains, humans and beasts, and the courage to change perceptions.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Review #2,199

Dir. Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart
2020 | Ireland | Animation/Adventure/Family | 103 mins | 1.85:1 | English
PG (passed clean) for sequences of violence and peril, scary images, some thematic elements and brief language

Cast: Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, Sean Bean
Plot: 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.
Awards: Nom. for Best Animated Feature (Oscars); Official Selection (Toronto)
International Sales: Cartoon Saloon (SG: Apple TV)

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Light/Family – Courage
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Mainstream

Viewed: The Projector – European Film Festival
Spoilers: No

Although already available on Apple TV, I was one of the lucky few in Singapore who saw Wolfwalkers on the big screen, thanks to the European Film Festival which selected it as Ireland’s entry. 

What an outstanding film this is, and quite rightly the best animated film of 2020, and ought to have won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature over Soul (2020). 

The third feature from Tomm Moore’s so-called ‘Irish Folklore’ trilogy after The Secret of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014), Wolfwalkers is the most accomplished of the trio, as he artfully brings to life another enthralling tale with sumptuous visuals and superb animation work.  The result is a masterful film that will delight both adults and children alike. 

The mundane life of a young girl, Robyn, changes dramatically when she encounters a ‘Wolfwalker’, a human who could transform into a wolf, on a forbidden trip into the forest. 

“You are a wolf when you sleep, a girl when you’re awake.”

Robyn and her English soldier father live under the oppressive rule of a Lord whom the latter obeys dutifully.  They are in a walled-up Irish town, as the locals contend with living under authoritarian rule, made worse by a pack of vicious wolves that seems to be targeting tree-choppers nearby. 

A tale about heroes and villains, humans and beasts, and the courage to change perceptions, Wolfwalkers is inspiring and emotional in equal measure. 

Moore’s treatment of music, originally composed by Bruno Coulais, is quite special here—it has been mixed at a lower level to underscore the action in a subtle way, which is why the film sounds low-key enchanting. 

There are no discernible melodies, nor is Coulais’ music particularly memorable, which is why when the free-spirited song, ‘Running with the Wolves’ by Aurora, comes midway in the film’s most stirring sequence, it sticks dearly. 

Ultimately, Wolfwalkers asks of us to be brave and to do everything we can to be free of the psychological—and political—obstacles that hold us back.

Grade: A




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