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New Escapist Video! “Wolfwalkers – Review in 3 Minutes”

I’m thrilled to be launching 3-Minute Reviews on Escapist Movies. Over the coming weeks and months, I will be joining a set of contributors in adding these reviews to the channel. For the moment, I’m honoured to contribute a three-minute feature film review to the channel, discussing Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s Wolfwalkers.

Non-Review Review: Wolfwalkers

Wolfwalkers is a stunningly beautiful piece of animation.

Of course, that almost goes without saying. Cartoon Saloon remain one of the most consistent animation houses in the world today, steadily building a reputation among animation aficionados that might invite comparisons to other artisanal studios like Ghibli or even Pixar; their previous three feature films all received Oscar nominations, and Wolfwalkers itself seems sure to earn its place among this year’s nominees.

Packed full of excitement.

Still, there’s an admirable ambition to Wolfwalkers, a sense that the studio is not merely resting on its laurels and is instead pushing itself forward. Wolfwalkers is perhaps the most technically accomplished animation that Cartoon Saloon have produced to date, applying all of the studio’s key strengths and throwing some playful experimental elements into the mix. Wolfwalkers retains the stylised Celtic aesthetic that informed both The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, but also throws in elements with a more international flavour. The results are breathtaking.

While the film suffers slightly in narrative terms, particularly in contrast to the studio’s work on The Breadwinner, it is a consistently and breathtakingly beautiful work.

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Non-Review Review: The Breadwinner

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2018.

Stories enrich us, stories empower us, stories sustain us.

The Breadwinner is many things. It is a beautifully animated film from Irish studio Cartoon Saloon, a worthy successor to The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, and also the first time that the company have looked beyond Irish shores for one of their feature-length releases. It is a stunning adaptation of Deborah Ellis’ novel, offering a compelling glimpse into Afghanistan as controlled by the Taliban at the turn of the millennium. It is a genuinely affecting tale of a young girl surviving in a climate that seems actively hostile to her very existence.

However, The Breadwinner is also a meditation upon the power of stories. This is not a surprise, it is very much in keeping with the aesthetics and interests of Cartoon Saloon. It is a recurring theme in their work. (As a point of comparison, Pixar Studios are invested in parental anxieties, down to the inclusion of the “Pixar Babies” in the credits of every major release.) Indeed, The Breadwinner might be seen as a spiritual successor to (or the third part of a thematic trilogy with) The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea, stories about children reconnecting with the mythic history of their countries.

Indeed, this is one of the most striking and appealing aspects of The Breadwinner is the way in which it finds something universal in its very specific setting. The Breadwinner is a story very firmly anchored in one time and place, but one that should resonate with everyone.

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