The latest from esteemed animation studio Cartoon Saloon, creators of the mesmerising Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner, follows the fortunes of young Parvana (Saara Chaudry). Living in Taliban dominated Kabul with her veteran father, mother, sister and infant bother, life is pretty tough even before her father is falsely accused of a crime by a young Taliban and carted off to jail. This leaves the family without anyone to earn money and even to escort the women out of the house.
Parvana is not one to be kept down though and when her mother is on the receiving end of a savage beating for attempting to cross town to the prison, she resolves to provide for her family and to find out what has become of her father. Directed by Nora Twomey (The Secret of Kells), this is wonderful movie on every level. The animation is magnificent and breathtakingly beautiful at times - if you have seen Song of the Sea, this will look familiar but not overly so. The backgrounds are beautifully rendered with bright, vibrant characters overlaid. This changes for the sections of the movie that cover Parvana's story telling - she recounts the tale of a brave peasant who sets out to liberate the seeds stolen from his village by an evil monster. These sections are told through a kind of cut out animation, full of colour and oddball characters.
Though an animation, the movie doesn't flinch at dealing with the themes brought up by the Taliban rule. There is a genuine sense of coming dread as fighter jets streak across the sky and at times, especially in the story within a story, the action will come across pretty strongly for younger viewers.
As Parvana, Chaudry (a young teenage at the time of securing the role) shows a maturity that belies her years, exactly in keeping with her character. Parvana is a resilient and resourceful soul, optimistic and determined even in the face of such a male dominated society and all the unfairness that comes with that. The story within a story helps to balance the day to day horror, just as it all threatens to become too much to bear, again perfectly reflecting the characters' experiences.
The Breadwinner is another impressive picture for Cartoon Saloon and a superb piece of work from Twomey and Chaudry. Relentlessly optimistic in the face of horrific circumstance, the characters' triumph of spirit is wonderful to behold. The animation styles work incredibly well together, lightening the tone exactly when it is required and facing the horror head on. A wonderful movie.