Movie Review: 'Wolfwalkers' Seems Timeless
Before this year, the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon had produced three feature films, all of which were nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars. All three were magnificent, but their newest, Wolfwalkers, may well be their most accomplished yet and has to be a lock for another nomination.
Not that they need an Oscar—their work speaks for itself. Wolfwalkers is the last part of a trilogy based in Irish folklore, following The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. This one tells the story of a 17th-century girl named Robyn who wants to help her father, a wolf hunter, rid the forest near her town of its wolves. She runs across another girl, this one not exactly human—this girl is a wolfwalker: a girl by day who turns into a wolf when she sleeps at night. She and her mother live amongst the wolves and are, it appears, the only wolfwalkers left alive.
Robyn’s town is ruled by a religious zealot who demands strict fealty—although whether that’s fealty to the cross or to himself is debatable. He wants the wolves dead and the forest burned. More than a couple times, Robyn’s father tells her, “we must do what we’re told.” Robyn resists, not because being wild is virtue unto itself, but because she knows what they’re being told to do is wrong.
You can assume the 2D animation in the film is stunning, although it’s hard to express just how gorgeous it is with words. The severe, angular figures in the town contrast with the lush, round tones of the forest, making use of images that sometimes seem like woodcuttings, sometimes watercolors, sometimes wispy line drawings. And when we see the world through the wolfwalkers’ eyes, it’s as brilliantly imaginative a representation of how another creature might see as anything I can remember.
I’m a sucker for folklore, but even if you aren’t, I can see almost no way this won’t enchant you. Wolfwalkers is a piece of work that feels almost timeless, one that reaches back into history but will endure far into the future.