Brief Thoughts: The Breadwinner
I really enjoy putting my reviews together. I honestly wish I could delve deeper into certain movies, but alas, I get incredibly busy and can sometimes only deal with movies to a briefer extent than I would prefer. This is why I write these occasional "Brief Thoughts" posts on movies I have seen, as I want to at least offer some of my own perspective on them. They may not be as polished, but I can at least get my opinions out there. This edition of "Brief Thoughts" features a mini-review of the independent animated drama The Breadwinner.
The Breadwinner: 4 out of 5
Based on the bestselling children's novel by Deborah Ellis, The Breadwinner is an animated featured that tells the story of Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry), an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in 2001 Afghanistan. The film comes from the same team that delivered the Academy Award-nominated films The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. Director Nora Twomey steps up for solo credit this time around in a story that deals with some harsh realities, even while using the perspective of a child.
A dynamic is established right away, as we quickly learn the role women have in this society and how the film will not be shying away from the intensity. Parvana will have to go to drastic measures to function in the community she lives in, especially once her father is wrongfully arrested, leaving her and the rest of her family alone. It means cutting her hair and posing as a boy to go to the market and support everyone.
While the animation style of Cartoon Saloon works to portray water and a fable-like sense of the earth for the previously mentioned Irish films, applying that same look to a desert-based movie has an even more interesting result. Perhaps it has to do with not seeing too many animated films based around this sort of setting, with a tone such as this, but finding an innocent in a rough environment allows the animation to feel all the more impactful. Some sequences stir up emotions based on the switch from smiles to sadness, as an unfair ruling body puts the pressure on those living an innocuous life, yet punished based on their gender.
Even while set nearly two decades ago in the Middle East, it would be hard to not see the relevance a film like this has around the world, but The Breadwinner maintains a focus on the story being told. The broader issues are clear enough that need to overexplain is not necessary. Instead, we see Parvana's journey, as she tries to ultimately have a chance of seeing her father again. Additionally, we learn of another story through Parvana, who uses a fairy tale as a way to help calm her little brother (as well as herself).
With this, the animation takes a turn towards a paper cut-out look that completely fits with this film, while also becoming some all its own. There's a sense of humor in these segments that is welcome, but as the drama elevates in Parvana's life, we also see the strength of including a story such as this, even if it is not always the sunniest of fairy tales.
There are a lot of great aspects to this film as a whole, as The Breadwinner does not dance around the issues, but also feels like a fine representation culture of the cutlure to an extent. Regardless of the Taliban's impact, seeing Parvana go to the market or share plates of rice, lentils, and raisins with her family speak to the film's ability to show how things are without having to comment on it. This adds to a few scenes in particular, when it comes to establishing new characters and how Parvana's intelligence allows her to help.
Thanks to strong vocal performances and a beautiful score by Mychael and Jeff Danna, there is plenty to appreciate on an auditory level as well. For all the visuals that build this film's big moments effectively, hearing it all makes for a wonderful experience overall, with a conclusion that does everything it needs to, without feeling contrived in any way.
In the midst of (terrific) animated films celebrated by the masses, The Breadwinner is easily one that deserves your attention as well.