Film Review: The Breadwinner

As part of the Glasgow Film Festival

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Cartoon Saloon is an Irish based film company whose previous films, Song of the Sea and Secret of Kells, are Celtic-influenced fantasy films aimed at family audiences. The Breadwinner, on the other hand, is a big departure from this, as a grittier, more realistic story set in 2000s Afghanistan. The Breadwinner follows a young girl whose father is arrested, and she and the rest of her family must adapt and survive in the extremely restrictive and patriarchal society of war-torn Afghanistan.

Despite tackling a heavy subject matter, The Breadwinner is not a completely serious or joyless film. The main character, Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry) is extremely likeable as a kind and intelligent young girl who would do anything to help her family. Her storytelling sections inject colour and humour into the potentially grim main story, and the tactile animations and art style of these sequences enhance the themes of the power of storytelling, bravery, and communication. It is poignant that the most vibrant parts of the film only exist in the characters’ imaginations.

The animation effectively conveys the physicality and realism of life, using the medium to enhance the connection to the characters. Each hit, each bruise and each fall feels real. Despite being hand-drawn the characters and their movements feel alive, and this further highlights the very real struggle that constitutes their day-to-day life. The Breadwinner is not afraid of being honest in its storytelling, and this also carries over to the animation itself.

The Breadwinner is unlike any other animated films I’ve seen before. It tackles difficult and distressing issues head on, but does not wallow in this darkness or its own grit, rather looking at the joy and hope that can be found in seemingly dire situations.  The storytelling, the animation, and the voice actors all come together to balance these different elements of the film to create a unique, heartfelt story of a young girl doing what’s best for her family in a harsh world.

[Jo Reid –@_jomreid]

More information about the Glasgow Film Festival, including a full list of upcoming screenings and events, is available here.

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