Review: The Breadwinner (2017)

The Breadwinner (2017)

Directed by: Nora Twomey | 94 minutes | animation, drama | Original voice cast: Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya, Noorin Gulamgaus, Laara Sadiq, Ali Badshah, Shaista Latif, Kanza Feris, Kawa Ada, Kane Mahon, Ali Kazmi, Mran Volkhard, Reza Sholeh

Some films are little gems that manage to surprise you. ‘The Breadwinner’ is such a movie. Based on the children’s book of the same name by Deborah Ellis, executive producer Angelina Jolie and the first film Nora Twomey directs herself (she co-directed her previous film ‘The Secret of Kells’ with colleague Tomm Moore).

‘The Breadwinner’ tells the story of young Parvana and her family in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in 2001. Her father takes Parvana to the market every day to sell things, only to be arrested for no reason and thrown into the thrown in jail. Together with her mother, older sister and younger brother, Parvana tries to survive without her father. Because women are not allowed to go out on the street without a man, it is impossible for them to get money and food. Their trip to prison is also brutally cut short. Out of desperation, Parvana decides to cut her hair short and go out on the street disguised as a boy. She soon realizes that a world of freedoms opens up to her. As the new man of the house, she works to get her father out of prison and reunite their family.

Parvana has to take on a lot of responsibility in a short time, which makes the film sometimes seem a bit heavy. The film manages to avoid this by using Parvana’s childish imagination. She likes to tell exciting stories to her little brother. We see this fantasy world come to life in colorful cut-out animation, which is in stark contrast to the sober animation of the rest of the film. Parvana’s life and her fantasy story alternate until they come together in a beautiful way towards the end of the film. During the touching denouement in her narration, she reveals how she has lost her older brother, revealing how much the girl has already endured in her short life. And that while the first signs of the upcoming war are becoming visible.

The power of ‘The Breadwinner’ lies in its simplicity. The story may not be very original, but the setting and timeline create a tension that is intriguing. The animation is minimalistic and elegant, the narration realistic and sincere. Thoroughly told through the eyes of a child, but also with a certain playfulness, which gives the film enough lightness for a fine balance.

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