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#TIFF20 Review: Wolfwalkers (Special Events)

September 13, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The latest feature from Cartoon Saloon and co-directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, the same creative team behind The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, Wolfwalkers is another engaging and beautifully stylized animated film from the Irish studio.

The film, which draws upon Irish folklore, is set in the county of Kilkenny in the year 1650, during England’s colonization of Ireland. The main character is Robyn Goodfellowe (Honor Kneafsey), the daughter of an English hunter (Sean Bean), who has been hired by the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell (Simon McBurney) to kill all of the wolves outside of the walled city, so the forest can be cut down and the land developed.

But Robyn, herself an aspiring hunter, has her perspective changed when she meets a young girl named Mebh (Eva Whittaker). Mebh is a wolfwalker, who has the ability to take on the form of a wolf, and a close friendship forms between the two girls. This unlikely friendship provides the heart of the film, and it is quite endearing to watch develop, with the two young leads Kneafsey and Whittaker delivering fully engaged vocal performances.

The film serves as another eye-popping artistic achievement from Moore and Stewart. The story unfolds through wonderfully illustrative animation that recalls the works of Studio Ghibli, and Wolfwalkers is quite confident on a stylistic level, including some interesting uses of split screens and changing aspect ratios. It very much feels like a folktale, and there are elements of Disney and Pixar in the storytelling, with the film at times recalling an Irish version of Brave.

It’s worth pointing out that, while this is the only animated feature at this year’s festival, it stands out as a definite highpoint for the year in terms of animation. It serves as a wonderful companion piece to The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, completing an unofficial trilogy of sorts, and fans of those two films are going to love it.

Mebh (Eva Whittaker) and Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) in Wolfwalkers

Public Screenings:

Saturday, September 12th – 6:00 PM at Bell Digital Cinema (Online for 24 Hours)

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