Now, this is a film that I didn’t really know anything about – save for vaguely knowing that it had a Best Animated Feature award. Beyond that, I had no idea what it was about. But it came up on a list of films as I was booking tickets to see Solo, and after reading a synopsis, I debated whether seeing it or not. Recently, I have become a Curzon Cinema member, so I thought “Why not?”
And thank god I did – this film was amazing! I can see now why this film was nominated – and I have to say it’s a crying shame it didn’t win. I’ll explain more in the review below.
Based on the novel of the same name, The Breadwinner is set in Kabul during the reign of the Taliban. It follows Parvana, a young girl whose father is arrested (for a rather stupid reason), leaving her family without a male attender. So as to stop her family starving, and also trying to see her father again, Parvana dresses up as a boy so that she can go out and try and make some money for her family. Along the way, she makes friends with Shauzia, who is also dressed as a boy for similar reasons. But with the war in Afghanistan ranging closer, time is running out.
WHAT I LIKED
As much as I like CGI animation, I do have a soft spot for “classic” hand drawn animation. The animation in The Breadwinner is beautiful to watch, with so many colours and tones lighting up on the screen. I also really enjoyed the “puppet show” type animation for when Parvana tells her story (more on that later). It all adds together to create a wonderful animated joy.
But don’t get me wrong, Disney comparisons aside, this is NOT a children’s film. It’s probably closer to Studio Ghibli, as the beautiful animation hides a darker undertone. This is a film that does not hold back with violence. It’s not a gorefest by any means – but it isn’t afraid to show the full extent of the danger that Parvana and her family are faced with. Even so much as walking down the street without a male affords them a beating if met with the wrong people. It’s not my wish to question other cultures, but this film made me angry that women could be treated that way. It really hit home to the struggles that folk have to deal with in some parts of the world.
The plot of The Breadwinner has one or two parallels with Mulan, one of my favourite Disney films – in that Parvana has to dress as a boy to try and help her family. But unlike Mulan, who was headstrong and brave, Parvana is a little more timid and worrisome. In many ways, that made her a stronger character that you genuinely hoped would go onto do well. And whilst I don’t want to spoil her journey for you, it is an incredible tale of self-discovery. This isn’t a story about fighting a monster, it was a story about a real struggle of a family just trying to live their lives.
Throughout the film, Parvana also tells a story about a boy that tries to retrieve grains from an evil Elephant King, which were stolen from his village. On the surface, it’s a basic “Knight in Shining Armour” tale about a hero that must overcome struggles to fight a monster, but here, it parallels Parvana’s struggles, and represents her own fears she needs to overcome. This sort of reminded me of the Tales of the Black Freighter comic that is told within the plot of Watchmen – in that the story in their represented events happening in Watchmen. I don’t really want to spoil the ending of the story – but believe me when I tell you that the ending of it will have you reaching for the nearest tissue, or your sleeve if there is none to hand.
There’s so much more I want to tell you about this film – but to tell the truth, I don’t want to. Whilst I’m not adverse to giving spoilers in my reviews (hence why I always give a warning at the beginning), occasionally, there are some films where I don’t want to spoil anything; or at least spoil as little as possible. This is one of those films. I knew nothing about The Breadwinner to begin with, so by going into it cold, it meant I could experience the story and emotion first hand. It wouldn’t have been as good if I knew what was going to happen. For that reason, I don’t really want to give away too much – I feel it’s better if you experience this yourselves. But trust me on this one, it’s worth it!
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
There was nothing I disliked about this film, nor where there any issues I spotted.
With a poignant, heart wrenching story that doesn’t hold back and animation that doesn’t just rival that of Disney and Studio Ghibli, but exceeds it, The Breadwinner is one of those films you have to see rather than read about. It’s as beautiful to watch as it is hard to, but sit through it and you’ll find a tale about courage in a seemingly bleak world. I’m glad I made the move to see this film, and whilst this review might not give too much away, I hope I have at least piqued your interest enough to see it. All I will say is have a few tissues on standby – you will most certainly need them.
FINAL SCORE: 5/5