From the director of The Secret of Kells, The Breadwinner is a powerful film in which the cuteness and colour of the animation is balanced by realities of life in war-torn Afghanistan
Parvana’s life in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan is defined by limitations. The tight stone walls of her family’s small home. The fact that neither she, her sister nor her mother can leave it without her father accompanying them. The restrictive, dehumanising clothing they have to wear when they do. The rigid code of conduct they must obey for fear of the roaming militants’ violent reprisal.
Their stories are their only source of freedom. Her father’s historical tales free her from the ignorance the Taliban would have her kept in. The fairytales they tell each other comfort and bind them as a family. When she cuts her hair and poses as a boy, the narrative she creates allows her to walk the streets less fearfully, to see enough of life to remain hopeful and to provide for her family.
Cartoon Saloon have rapidly become an animation studio whose every new release should be anticipated as excitedly as those of Studio Ghibli or Pixar. Their simply drawn characters are furnished with an astonishing depth of expression and their Rayman-esque talent for playing colour and motion to musical rhythm has never been more strongly displayed than in The Breadwinner’s storybook-style sections where Parvana passes on her father’s tales. The chapter in which she and her friend wrestle for creative control is a gleeful ode to the boundless quality of animation.
For all its colour and cuteness, Nora Twomey’s beautiful hand-drawn world is still very much our own and the realities of life in one of the world’s most war-torn corners are never shied from. Fear, death, blood and pain punctuate the tale and are only sometimes overcome. Some character’s stories end happily, many sadly, some we don’t know yet. All of them are beautifully told.
The Breadwinner screened at Glasgow Film Festival
Released 25 May by StudioCanal