fri 12/07/2024

DVD/Blu-ray: The Breadwinner | reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: The Breadwinner

DVD/Blu-ray: The Breadwinner

Riveting animated tale of life under Taliban rule

Taking turns: Parvana's family in 'The Breadwinner'

Animation fans have rarely had it so good, though it’s nothing short of criminal that the mean-spirited, infantile Peter Rabbit took more money than the sublime Paddington 2, and that Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner wasn’t a popular success when released earlier this year. Redress the balance, and buy this disc today.

Based on the first novel in Deborah Ellis’s Afghanistan-set series, it’s a remarkable film, at times so real, so acutely observed, that you forget it’s animated at all – as with My Life as a Courgette, you’re left incredulous that this riveting assemblage of pixels and pencil strokes carries such weight.

Set in Taliban controlled Afghanistan, this is the tale of 12-year old Parvana, selling bric-a-bac on the streets of Kabul with her beloved father Nurullah, a former teacher who lost a leg during the war against the USSR. Nurullah enchants his daughter by telling her stories about the history of the country, a land of “scientists, philosophers and storytellers, at the edges of empires at war with each other”. Nurullah is wrongly arrested by a brutal ex-pupil and Taliban member. His imprisonment means that Parvana’s family have no means of support: her brother having died some years before, the female family members are unable to leave the house. Parvana cuts her hair short and pretends to be her father’s nephew, managing to work, shop for the family whilst entertaining her baby brother with a parallel narrative, a beguiling folk tale about the evil Elephant King.The BreadwinnerWhat follows is frequently very dark indeed, and Twomey’s animators don’t pull their punches. But, amidst the heartache are some astonishing images. Kabul’s bustling streets are wonderfully realised, the city’s honey coloured skies glowing. The characters’ faces are stylised but always expressive, particularly the hulking illiterate Razaq who Parvana teaches to read and whose friendship plays a key role in the plot. The Elephant King’s saga (pictured above) provides colourful light relief, eventually morphing into the story of what happened to Parvana’s older brother. These enchanting sequences are one of the film’s highlights, digitally-animated but resembling paper cut-outs. And the cautiously optimistic close feels so right: viewers wanting to know what happens next should read Ellis’s novels.

Angelina Jolie was The Breadwinner’s executive producer and pops up in a very brief bonus introduction. Better value is an extended behind-the-scenes documentary taking us through the long process of making an animated film. Twomey shares an entertaining commentary with her production colleagues. 

What follows is frequently very dark indeed, and Twomey’s animators don’t pull their punches


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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