Animated. Featuring the voices of Sean Bean, Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker,
Simon McBurney, Tommy Tiernan, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jon Kenny, John Morton
Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart
Following the wonderful animated films “The Secret of Kells” and “Song of the Sea,” the third film in the “Irish folklore” trilogy from Cartoon Saloon, the animation studio located in Kilkenny, Ireland, is a visually stunning fable about a magical tribe of wolfwalkers who have the ability to transform into the canines via astral projection. Set during the 17th-century, the film explores the close bond between a young girl and her father, a hunter who’s been ordered by the evil governing Lord to wipe out the wolf population.
Our fable begins in 1650 during the Parliamentary invasion of Ireland led by English general Oliver Cromwell whose disdain for the Irish and Catholics invoked fear across the country as he led with an iron fist; Voiced by the wonderful British actor Simon McBurney, the evil dictator insisted on being referred to as Lord Protector.
Sean Bean voices the role of widowed hunter Bill Goodfellowe (William seems more appropriate) who is tasked by Lord Protector to kill the wolves in the area to placate the citizens of Kilkenny who fear the beasts may attack them at night. Bill’s daughter Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) longs to follow in her father’s footsteps — she would much rather be in the woods with her trusty crossbow than in a classroom setting — especially since the young girl is bullied by her classmates, so, she sneaks out and secretly follows her father as he sets out on his mission.
When Robyn, dressed in a hooded black cape with her pet owl by her side, crosses paths with a wolf in the woods, her futile attempt to take out the wild beast is met with kindness. When she accidentally wounds her pet owl, the wolf transforms back into its human form Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a young girl or “wolfwalker,” who uses her magic to heal Robyn’s owl.
As rumors of the fabled creatures who can talk to wolves and use wild magic are murmured by the villagers, a furious Lord Protector steps up his campaign to rid the area of the wolves. Anyone mentioning wolfwalkers is placed in stocks, a fate that may befall Bill and his daughter unless he can end the reign of the mighty wolf pack.
The beautifully hand-drawn film from directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart is filled with vibrant colors and extraordinary detail. Cartoon Saloon is Ireland’s answer to Japan’s Studio Ghibli as it delivers ravishing 2-D animation backed by wonderful stories.
“Wolfwalkers” uses Ireland’s history as a setting for this magical tale filled with compassion, the love for animals, and a message that good people refuse to be ruled by fear. Yes, it’s timely.
(3 ½ stars)
Now showing in theaters including Cinemark 12 Victoria