Wolfwalkers

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Wolfwalkers Movie Poster Image
 Parents recommendPopular with kids
Lush, lyrical Irish folktale has dark moments, peril.
  • PG
  • 2020
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 22 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 12 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Viewers will learn a bit about the Cromwellian occupation of Ireland, how occupying forces subjugate colonized populations. Also Irish folktales, legends, beliefs and how they contrasted with Christianity during medieval times.

Positive Messages

Robyn's journey encourages people not to judge others because of their background or appearance, to stick up for others when they're being threatened or bullied, to learn to be tolerant and understanding of others' beliefs. Explains why people who are oppressed are justified in feeling unfairly treated by oppressors. Courage, empathy, perseverance, teamwork are major themes.

Positive Role Models

Robyn is always generous but learns to be empathetic after meeting, befriending the spirited Mebh, who discovers that she needs help to rescue her mother and her home. Robyn's father initially believes he must keep his daughter quiet and obedient to save her life -- and doesn't listen to her for a long time -- but ultimately joins her brave, selfless protection of the wolfwalkers. Lord Protector is intolerant, authoritarian.

Violence & Scariness

Scenes of wolves chasing humans, hunters tracking wolves, people being taken into custody at Lord Protector's orders, climactic battle between wolves and Lord Protector's guards. A character dies in violent confrontation. Characters use weapons: crossbows, a cannon, etc. Wolves can seem menacing but are ultimately sympathetic. Robyn's pet falcon appears dead; Mebh, in wolf form, bites Robyn (but then heals her) for trying to shoot her with an arrow. A girl is separated from and worried about her missing mother, whom she later is afraid won't survive. Kids bully one another, use wooden swords and a cage to torment their victim. A few characters seem like they're about to die. Some soldiers and wolves are injured or seem to die. Arguing/yelling.

Sexy Stuff
Language

"Witch," "idiot," "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wolfwalkers is an Irish folktale from the filmmakers behind The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. Set during England's 17th century occupation of Ireland, it explores the folktales of the titular supernatural people, who are humans while awake but transform into wolves while their bodies are sleeping. Expect violent confrontations between English forces and the wolves/wolfwalkers, including a climactic battle with weapons in which people and wolves are injured or even die. A beloved pet is believed to be dead, and a young girl is separated from and extremely worried about her mother, who's being held captive by an evil, intolerant villain. Another girl has to fight very hard to make her father listen to her. Despite its peril, this beautifully hand-drawn animated fantasy/adventure is ultimately a hopeful, if bittersweet, movie about what the enduring folktales of Ireland represent. It promotes courage, empathy, perseverance, and teamwork. There are social justice themes as well: The main character, an English girl named Robyn (voiced by Honor Kneafsey), starts to see how poorly the English treat Ireland's people and environment.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBoltsnouns November 14, 2020

An amazing movie with great artwork and storytelling!

I was a little worried about the themes from the trailer and the lack of reviews on Common Sense (none posted as of right now), but I decided to give it a shot... Continue reading
Adult Written byAODeane December 13, 2020

Lovely movie with beautiful storytelling and artwork!

My 7 and 10 year old girls loved this film, especially the older girl who said it was the best movie she had seen in ages and I really enjoyed it too! Captivati... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old November 15, 2020

OUTSTANDING!!

It was awesome! It was extremely exciting. EXTREMELY, and it was nothing short of awesome. My only complaint would be that they made the bad guy seem like a Ch... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byyogurt12156 June 6, 2021

Brilliant movie idea, can be confusing at times!

It is a brilliant idea, but it can be confusing! I l LOVE the movie, personally. The design is very unique and cool! There are great messages but it can be dark... Continue reading

What's the story?

Award-winning Irish animators Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart's latest film, WOLFWALKERS, is, like their previous films The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, a folktale about pagan Celtic spirits. It's set in 17th century Kilkenny, where the recently installed English Lord Protector (voiced by Simon McBurney) puts hunter Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) to work ridding the forest of a pack of wolves so that townsfolk can clear the land. Widower Bill's young daughter, Robyn (Honor Kneafsey), fancies herself a hunter, too, and goes into the forest to help her dad. There she encounters the wolves, which injure her pet falcon, Merlin. On another forbidden trip to the forest, Robyn meets Mebh (Eva Whittaker), a feral girl who's also a wolfwalker: a human with the ability to leave her physical body during sleep and transform into a wolf. Mebh convinces Robyn to help find her missing mother, Moll (Maria Doyle Kennedy), the queen wolfwalker, who was captured while in wolf form. As the girls grow closer and closer, Bill continues to be tasked with wiping out the wolves -- or face dire consequences.

Is it any good?

Moore and Stewart deliver another gorgeously animated, emotionally resonant medieval folktale set in an Ireland full of colorful magic, in Wolfwalkers. In their earlier film The Secret of Kells, magical wolf-girl Aisling said, "I have lived through many ages, through the eyes of salmon, deer, and wolf. I have seen the Northmen invading Ireland, destroying all in search of gold. I've seen suffering in the darkness. Yet I have seen beauty thrive in the most fragile of places." That sentiment is ever present in Wolfwalkers, too, with the central mythical creatures reduced in numbers to a mother-daughter pair who lead the remaining wolves of the forest. The people have begun to turn on their enchanted past: The English occupiers care nothing for the Irish people or the beauty of the land, only what it can provide for them. The movie focuses on the special relationship between English hunter Robyn and Irish wolfwalker Mebh, both of whom adore their one parent and desperately want to help each other. 

The film's animation is, as you'd expect, breathtakingly beautiful. While the town is dark and drab, with harsh lines and scowling faces, the forest comes alive in vibrant, verdant greens and rich, earthy browns, with circular flourishes that draw the eye everywhere on the screen. It's like two worlds: the one that sustains magic and the one that rejects it. The atmospheric Celtic soundtrack adds to the story's emotional beats, and the screenplay manages to be both hopeful and heartbreaking. Wolfwalkers is, at heart, an exploration of how colonialism and empire erase local culture. These themes may not be obvious to younger viewers, but they're powerful. Families may cry together as the main characters fight for their right to exist, for their survival, in an increasingly unsympathetic and hostile environment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the literal and figurative transformations in Wolfwakers. How does Robyn change throughout the movie? What makes her more sensitive to Mebh's concerns and welfare? Who acts like a role model in the movie? What makes them worth admiration and respect? What does it mean to help others, even if they are supposed to be your "enemy"?

  • Which characters in the movie demonstrate courage, empathyperseverance, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

  • If you've seen director Tomm Moore's other movies, which film's folktales or legends do you find the most fascinating: Wolfwalkers, Song of the Sea, or The Secret of Kells?

  • Did this movie make you want to learn more about Irish/Celtic myths and legends? What other myths are you interested in seeing depicted in a movie?

  • How does the fact that Robyn is a girl affect her story? Do you think a boy in her position would have been refused the opportunity to hunt with his father or sent to work in the scullery?

Movie details

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