Film Review: The Breadwinner

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Director: Nora Twomey

12A | 1h 34min | Animation, Drama, Family | 25 May 2018 (UK)

RATING: ★★★★☆

This poignant and elegantly-designed animated film was in the running for the Oscar this year, though it lost out to Pixar's Coco. It hails from the same studio that produced the well-regarded Song of the Sea. Directed by Nora Twomey and based on the novel from Deborah Ellis, and with a plot focusing on one girl’s struggle to support her family in Taliban-controlled Kabul, this film is a proudly female-driven project from top to bottom. But there is so much more to enjoy here than simply this picture's #metoo credentials, in particular the evocative animation that strikes a nice balance between realising the paper-like fantasy sequences that represent the vibrant storytelling imagination of central character Parvana, and conjuring for us the sun-baked reality of an oppressive, Taliban-ruled Kabul in the days before the US invasion.

Despite being aimed at younger audiences, the film does not flinch from exploring the grim reality facing women under extreme religious rule: women like Parvana and her mother and sister are forbidden from going anywhere unaccompanied, which means access to food or even trying to enquire about their imprisoned father’s whereabouts is impossible. If they are to survive, drastic action must be taken, which drives Parvana to cut her hair and pass herself off as a boy. It’s a cruel decision to have to make and a very risky move, but as dark as things get for the young girl, this makes the film's moments of light- particularly those that come from female solidarity and ingenuity (Parvana makes a decent amount of money by leveraging her reading and writing skills, skills many men in Kabul do not seem to have) - more impactful.

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Owen Van Spall

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