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.