Wolfwalkers (Film Review)

The strength of female friendship and the brutality of colonization are the central themes to the magical animated film Wolfwalkers. Robyn and her father move to Ireland as part of an English lord’s campaign to “tame” the land around an Irish village. Robyn’s father is a professional hunter who has been tasked with exterminating the extremely active wolf packs around the town. The Irish folk have an uneasy truce with the wolves, due to traditional folkloric beliefs. The religious zealot English lord dismisses these beliefs as pagan superstition, and sees the wolf extermination as an angle to Christianize the population. Robyn, a “high-spirited” girl, is an outsider in the town, and disobeys her father by following him on his trap setting missions. While silently tracking her dad, she encounters the magical and mischievous Mebh, a near feral wolf-girl and discovers the secret existence of wolfwalkers, a race of shapeshifting beings who can astral project their souls into wolf-form. They control the pack and also have the power to heal. The two girls become fast friends, and Robyn assists Mebh in searching for her mother, whose wolf-form has been separated from her sleeping body for some time. The animation is lovely, with backgrounds that look like living paintings. Mebh is depicted as a red-haired, big eyed ball of energy that it’s a pleasure to watch flow across the screen. The voice acting is bright and on point, with a multiplicity of accented English.  I was especially impressed with the sophisticated depiction of colonialism and religious zealotry.