“The Breadwinner” tugs at heartstrings and deserves to be seen

It’s a bittersweet moment when you walk out of a movie and think to yourself, “This is something magical, and it’s probably going to be overlooked.” This particular movie, packed with depth and talent, is the animated film “The Breadwinner,” directed by Nora Twomey.

Released on Nov. 17, the film, based off of Deborah Ellis’s novel of the same name, tells the story of a young girl in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan named Parvana (Saara Chaudry), who disguises herself as a boy so that she can go out in public alone to work so she can provide for her family while her father is stuck in prison.

The issue with this movie is not that its story isn’t engaging or that its animation or voice acting are subpar—far from it. The animation done by Cartoon Saloon has a wonderful blend of bright colors and a simple yet stylistic art style that gives the movie a surreal, magical feel. The art helps convey the tone of the film, allowing the viewers to empathize with the characters on a deeper level. It transports them into a different part of reality, whether that be the dusty streets of Kabul, or the simple and colorful world of the folk stories Parvana tells to pass the time as she copes with her brutal environment.

The voice actors are all wonderful as well, especially Chaudry, whose excellent delivery of strong, well-written dialogue gives life to Parvana. I would add some supporting actors to the list of exceptional performances, but in this case I feel they each contributed so much to the strength of their characters that it would be unfair to favor certain actors.

The story is touching and memorable. The characters are lovable, from the determined yet naïve Parvana to her sly best friend Shauzia (Soma Bhatia), and many more, even though the cast is relatively small. With a poignant and very genuine look at life in Afghanistan, the story also acts as a striking commentary on war, women’s rights and education and even the role of religion and storytelling in communities. Parvana is a smart girl, educated by her father, and seeing her try to assert her independence and survive in a society that does not accept her as a woman, save for a few friends and her loving family, is moving.

Alas, the real reason I suspect this movie will be sidelined to obscurity is that it’s animated. Animated movies have a notorious and false reputation for being children’s films, and it’s rare for them to get significant coverage unless they are made by a major studio such as The Walt Disney Co. or DreamWorks Animation (not impossible, but rare).

Despite having some lighthearted moments and a cartoonish style, this is not a kid’s film; it’s rated PG-13, and is a serious drama. Despite being a more obscure Irish animation studio, Cartoon Saloon’s movies have often been critically acclaimed (even Oscar-nominated), but have failed to get a lot of press. This movie does have the spotlight advantages of having Angelina Jolie as one of its executive producers and being based off of a best-selling novel, but outside of that there isn’t much else to push this wonderful little work.

However, I do have hope that “The Breadwinner” will surpass my cynical expectations. It’s a film that deserves to be seen, and I implore you to give it a chance. It is a powerful and interesting movie, and a genuine emotional experience from start to finish.

Film: “The Breadwinner”
Release: Nov. 17
Starring: Saara Chaudry, Soma Bhatia, Laara Sadiq
Rating: 5/5 stars