A hunter, Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean), and his daughter, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), move to Ireland when Bill is commissioned to wipe out the last wolf pack. One day, Robyn ventures to the woods, without permission, to try to help her father hunt the pack. There she meets Mebh MacTíre (Eva Whittaker), a lively and chatty young girl who transforms into a wolf at night time. The two become friends and Robyn is convinced to join the cause of the wolf pack.
The quality of the work produced by Cartoon Saloon (‘The Secret of Kells’, ‘Song of the Sea’, ‘Puffin Rock’) has always been outstanding and the studio has outdone itself this time round. Every shot of ‘Wolfwalkers’ is akin to a painting, a work of art, and its wide span of emotions, feeling, and sense of magic stay with the audience long after the final frames.
It’s a simple yet effective plot that initially starts as a feel-good story about friendship, but takes a dark turn, becoming grand in scale and action-filled by act three. The drive and energy of the narrative is consistent and the tone can be fearful and impassioned but never hopeless. The Kilkenny setting (also home to Cartoon Saloon, explaining the care and sense of affection in its depiction) is stunning. Sean Bean’s vocals add a gruffness alongside a sense of gentility to his character. The young actors Honor Kneafsey and Eva Whittaker are also excellent.
The film inspires comparisons to such films as ‘Princess Mononoke’ and ‘Pocahontas’ (including a similarly strong environmental message) but it is Irish through and through. There are some entertaining colloquialisms from the characters (“Ah sure she'll be grand”, “Flippin’ great”, “’Tis lovely music altogether” etc) which are all-round charming. ‘Wolfwalkers’ also looks at Irish-English relations, a dynamic which tends not to feature often in cinema, and the Cromwellian era of colonisation, without ever collapsing into a history lecture. In summary, there is much to enjoy and appreciate, and little to fault. It’s a cliché to say both young and old will enjoy ‘Wolfwalkers’, but the movie is that remarkable that all should watch it. This could easily go down as one of the great animations of the decade.