- Emma Simmonds
- 26 October 2020
Magical animated adventure from the double Oscar-nominated Tomm Moore
From Tomm Moore, the double Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells comes yet another enchantingly realised, hand-drawn spin on Celtic folklore. The fourth feature from Kilkenny-based animation studio Cartoon Saloon (who were also behind 2017's Kabul-set The Breadwinner, also Oscar-nominated), co-directed by Ross Stewart, is a bracing adventure focusing on two fearless young females who rage against an oppressive regime.
Taking place in the Kilkenny of 1650, it finds English immigrants Robyn Goodfellowe (voiced by Honor Kneafsey) and her hunter father Bill (Sean Bean) somewhat alienated from their community. The residents live fearfully and joylessly within the town walls under the crushing rule of the Oliver Cromwell-inspired Lord Protector (Simon McBurney), for whom Bill begrudgingly works. Outside is a forest where ferocious wolves roam, with a pair of magical humans known as wolfwalkers living secretly amongst them – the flame-haired mother and daughter Mebh and Moll (Eva Whittaker and Maria Doyle Kennedy). With her cowed father powerless to prevent it, Robyn appears destined for a lifetime in the scullery, but when the wolves' habitat comes under threat she joins forces with Mebh to make a stand.
It's a beautifully conceived original story which combines the spirit of youthful, feminist rebellion with a traditional-feeling narrative, working in some magical mythology and an impactful environmental message about deforestation too. The character design is superb: from towering softie Bill, the sweet and serious Robyn, to little feral furball Mebh.
In a film bursting with idiosyncrasy and craft, the details really are something to savour – the striking use of symmetry, for example, and the way the animators expertly create contrast between the harsh, grey confines of the human world – hard lines, sharp angles, and with a flattened out feel – and the softer, sketchier forest, with its warm, appealingly autumnal palette, and sense of depth and energy. Boasting genuine jeopardy and fired up from the passion of its principles, it's unusual for an animation to seem so full of life.
Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 30 Oct and on Apple TV+ from Fri 11 Dec.