Cine Gael features the
lushly beautiful Wolfwalkers
The full-length animation has garnered multiple awards
By Byron Toben
March 2, 2023
Cine Gail Montréal continued its 31st Irish Film series on February 24 with a beautifully crafted animated film Wolfwalkers.
Released in 2020, it was nominated for top prizes in an incredible 75 festivals, winning 27. A mix of computer-generated visuals augmented by hand-drawn embellishments gave it a 3D feel. These techniques were mastered by the producer Cartoon Saloon in its earlier masterpieces The Book of Kells (2009) and Song of the Sea (2014), both shown at earlier Cine Gael seasons.
Wolfwalkers is based upon ancient Irish legends of a mysterious band of persons whose souls can leave their bodies at night to inhabit the bodies of native wolves and then return to their human bodies upon awakening. Thus this is not a werewolf movie in which the humans grow hair and fangs.
Wolfwalkers is based upon ancient Irish legends of a mysterious band of persons whose souls can leave their bodies at night to inhabit the bodies of native wolves and then return to their human bodies upon awakening.
All this takes place around the year 1563 when Ireland was dominated by the English forces of Oliver Cromwell, who had a policy of keeping the locals docile for cheap labour, chopping down the forests and relocating locals by death threats “To Hell or Connacht,” resisted by the denizens of Kilkenny, who, as wolves, terrorize the tree choppers.
Accordingly, Cromwell’s military Lord Protector is determined to rid Ireland of the wolves. (Saint Patrick is reputed to have rid Ireland of snakes peacefully, but wolves apparently require more drastic action.)
Young girl Robyn accompanies her English father, a wolf killer armed with a crossbow, to Ireland to rid the land of wolves (perhaps, though not cited in this film, he had a successful record as acknowledged in Dylan Thomas’ 1950s BBC poem, later printed as A Child’s Christmas in Wales which begins “Years and years ago, when there were wolves in Wales”).
Seeking to emulate her father, bearing her own crossbow and accompanied by her pet falcon, she sneaks out of the safety of their gated house into the forest, where she encounters a free-spirited young girl wolfwalker, Mbeh, whose mother is the leader of the pack. They become friends, and Robyn, having been bitten by a wolf, becomes a wolfwalker herself (I had thought that the bite that changes was limited to vampires!)
Anyway, Robyn’s daddy finally sees the light and aids in ridding the land of the sanctimonious Lord Protector, but not before canon and torch have denuded the Emerald Isle of much of its dense forests.
Directors Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart selected excellent voice actors to flesh out their visual creation, which can still be seen on Apple TV plus.
This Cine Gael Montreal screening was preceded by relevant comments from Martin Collfeir, assistant professor at Concordia’s School of Irish Studies.
The next film in the series is The New Music on March 10.
Images: frames from Wolfwalkers
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.