Wolfwalkers Parent Guide
The care and dedication of the artists is clear in the film's meticulous and stunning hand-drawn animation.
Parent Movie Review
In seventeenth century Ireland, the town of Kilkenny is struggling under their new English rulers, while also trying to protect themselves from the wolves that live in the surrounding forest. The recently installed Lord Protector (Simon McBurney) assigns Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) to rid the forest of the wolves. His young daughter, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), wants to be a hunter too, but her father orders her to stay home, where it’s safe. In an effort to prove herself, Robyn sneaks out of town and into the woods. There she meets Mebh (Eva Whittaker), who reveals herself to be a wolfwalker, a human who becomes a wolf while they sleep, with the ability to communicate with and command the wolf pack. Mebh reveals that her mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy) is missing and asks Robyn to help find her before the humans take over the forest completely.
Wolfwalkers is easily one of the most stunning films I’ve ever seen. The animation is hand drawn 2D and highly stylized, and it is a feast for the eyes. Every inch of every scene is meticulously brought to life. The animators use a variety of techniques to add to the emotional resonance of the story, including adding shaky black lines when the characters are experiencing intense emotions, and playing with the frame size to emphasize themes of captivity and strict obedience. The care and dedication of the animators is obvious, and, frankly, refreshing. I often feel that animated movies all look the same these days, so I get excited when a production like this comes along that isn’t afraid to be different.
What’s even better is that the rest of the film lives up to its spectacular animation. The voice work is fantastic, especially for such young actors. The score uses traditional Irish instruments, reinforcing the beauty and culture of that country. The writing is also to be commended for its worldbuilding and character work. The main characters are richly layered, and the development of the setting is done with a deft hand, allowing the viewer to put some of the pieces together on their own, instead of being hit over the head with expository dialogue.
Going into my viewing, I assumed that the main theme of Wolfwalkers would be ecological, and it is, but it is also so much more than that. There are the obvious motifs of protecting and preserving nature and respecting animals, but there are also messages of courage, empathy, freedom, and the importance of family. What is even more interesting, at least for adults, is the criticism of English occupation in Ireland. The writers have used traditional Irish folk tales as a framework for the story, and that framework serves as a critique of Christian English imperialism in a fascinating way. Robyn’s struggles for freedom and autonomy as an individual mirror the struggles of the Irish, both in the past and today. That side of the movie will probably go over children’s heads, but I think that the film is a powerful message of the resiliency of Irish culture and tradition.
As amazing as this movie is, I wouldn’t recommend it for the very young or the very sensitive. It can be relatively scary in places and there is a fair amount of violence, both against animals and humans. Outside of that, however, I highly recommend Wolfwalkers. The artistry alone makes it worth a watch, but the layers of storytelling might make it worth multiple viewings.Directed by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart. Starring Honor Kneafsey, Eva Whittaker, and Sean Bean. Running time: 103 minutes. Theatrical release December 11, 2020. Updated February 26, 2021
Watch the trailer for Wolfwalkers
Rating & Content Info
Why is Wolfwalkers rated PG? Wolfwalkers is rated PG by the MPAA for sequences of violence and peril, scary images, some thematic elements and brief language.
Violence: Wolves growl at and scratch humans. A bird is shot in the wing by an arrow. A girl is bit on the arm by a wolf. A wolf is shot in the chest with an arrow. Musket guns and crossbows are seen and used throughout the film. A wolf is cut across the face with a sword, showing a small amount of blood. A man falls off a cliff, presumably to his death. People are shown in pillories. People and wolves are chained. Talk of killing wolves throughout.
Sexual Content: None
Profanity: Multiple uses of terms of deity, one minor expletive.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None
Page last updated February 26, 2021
Wolfwalkers Parents' Guide
Why does Robyn say that she is “already in a cage”? Who else in the story is in a cage, either literally or figuratively?
What does the Lord Protector represent in the story? Why are the Irish people critical of him and his rule?
For more about the relationship between England and Ireland, check out these links: