Reviews | Written by Laura Potier 16/10/2020

WOLFWALKERS [London Film Festival 2020]


The third and final film in Cartoon Saloon’s informal ‘Irish folklore trilogy’ (which includes The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea), Wolfwalkers is a spellbinding manifestation of artistic vision, exploring themes of environmentalism, civilisation’s relationship with nature, and post-colonial trauma.

Set in 17th-century Kilkenny, Wolfwalkers rewrites history at the point of Oliver Cromwell’s violent invasion of Ireland and subsequent campaign to ‘tame’ its people and quash the Catholic Church. In Wolfwalkers, the Cromwellian figure of Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) is struggling to maintain control of the town: wolves haunt the woods beyond the city walls, terrorising those within and creating unrest. He has brought Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) from England to hunt down and kill the pack, so that English forces may clear the forest for agricultural use. With him is his daughter Robyn Goodfellowe (Honor Kneapsey), a young girl who, despite her father’s protests, wishes to become a wolf-hunter.

In her desire to prove herself, Robyn sneaks out into woods and meets Mabh (Eva Whittaker), one of the last Wolfwalkers – mythic humans who can transform into wolves. The unlikely friendship that blossoms between them gifts Robyn a new perspective on the woods and its inhabitants, and on her place in this world. The breath-taking visuals contribute as much to the storytelling as the action, weaving together Irish identity, art, and folklore to illustrate the dualism between a callously modernising world and nature, brimming with life and beauty. Wolfwalkers is a proud rejection of colonial legacy, an urgent call-to-arms against the continued destruction of our environment, and a truly poignant tale of empathy, understanding and loss. It cannot be missed.

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