Review | Wolfwalkers | 2020
After first emerging on the international scene with a seemingly out of nowhere Oscar nomination in 2009 for The Secret of Kells, Irish animator Tomm Moore has quickly become one of the medium's most indelible voices. Moore went on to earn another Oscar nomination for his 2014 film Song of the Sea, and has returned in 2020 with perhaps his most accomplished work yet. Wolfwalkers is the inaugural animated feature released by the fledgling Apple TV+ streaming service, which has been mostly light on content compared to the other the other major streamers, but Wolfwalkers is a major film, and seems poised to earn Moore (who co-directs here with his frequent collaborator, Ross Stewart) his third Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature.
Wolfwalkers often feels like an ancient fable, passed down through oral tradition and brought to life through fantastical illustrations pulled from the dreams of ancestors long past. It's a tale of independence and rebellion against oppression and colonization that perfectly fits our current moment. Moore's dazzling animation style has never felt so otherworldly or dreamlike as it does here - its swirling impressionistic colors seemingly forging a myth on screen before our very eyes. Imagine Brave but with a bigger heart and a deeper soul. Composer Bruno Coulais accompanies the breathtaking imagery with one of the finest scores of his career, which also employs songs by Kila and AURORA to thrilling effect.
It's a shame this won't be as widely released in theaters as it may have before the COVID-19 pandemic (GKIDS gave it a limited nationwide release over the last month), because it is truly one of the most stunning animated films to come along in quite some time. It's so invigorating to see a hand-drawn work like this again, with such a fully realized emotional grounding that recalls work of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. In Wolfwalkers Moore has created something that feels both ancient and modern, a bracing cross section of Irish lore and modern sensibilities (and a touch of queer subtext) that feels at once warmly familiar and electrifyingly new.