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The Breadwinner: A Story of Courage and Determination

By Haasith Garapati ('22)

Photo courtesy of Netflix

The Breadwinner is a fantastic movie that perfectly captures the essence of Afghanistan and invokes suspense and fear, along with wonder, thrill, and happiness. It truly shows how authentic a movie can be if people have the heart to research and understand the things that happen in real life as well as understand how people feel.

For those who haven’t watched it, The Breadwinner is an animated movie that takes place in Afghanistan during the time the Taliban ruled and made it illegal for women to come outside their homes and show their faces.

Parvana, a young girl who lives there with her family had a relatively peaceful life until her father is wrongfully accused of a crime and dragged to prison. In order to get money and buy food for her soon to be starving family, Parvana cuts off her hair and poses as a boy so that she can support her family outside the house. Using the countless stories her father told her, she slowly builds the strength to support herself and comfort her distraught family. But in the war-torn lands of Afghanistan, anything can happen at anytime, and it can be a matter of life or death for her.

To start off, one of the most amazing things the movie showed off was its stunning atmosphere. The background sounds and subtle dust animations in the air really helped to stabilize the setting of Parvana’s home in the deserts of Afghanistan. The movie really makes the viewers feel as if they are really right there in the Middle East, listening to bikes rumble across the streets and hearing men loudly bargain with merchants in their native language. Little details like the clothes they wore, the scorching rays of the sun and the native food also greatly contributed to how realistic this movie felt.

It was extremely apparent that Director Nora Twomey, Executive Producer Angelina Jolie and Cartoon Saloon put a lot of time and effort into researching the Afghani lifestyle and keeping the essence alive within every scene.

Another great thing about the movie is that the animation style is gorgeous and very smooth and convincing. Every part of the movie seems like a drawing torn out of a storybook, with movements and styles that make the characters and world seem full of expression. Although the characters have relatively simple designs and models, that combined with the movie’s unique style makes the characters seem believable with a simple change in the curve of their eyes or a crinkle in their complexion.

However, good atmospheres and animation won’t help the movie much if there is no development or interesting plot. It’s here that the movie falters just a bit, but still maintains its emotional potential. Throughout the movie you see Parvana in the real world working with her friends to support her family and braving dangers to try and get her father back.

But then in between those scenes, Parvana starts telling an imaginary story to herself and the movie switches its world from real world to the story. Essentially, this splits the movie into two parts. Parvana’s imaginary story is about a young man who is on a quest to save his starving village when their precious seeds are stolen by the monstrous elephant king.

Whenever the movie switches from the real world to the story world, the animation changes into a wood-puppet like style that makes the story seem like a grand play. The idea of switching between the real world and a story world within the same movie may seem like a bad idea bound to throw viewers into confusion, but they are actually incorporated very naturally to fit the proper plot progression.

The way the director did this was to have Parvana do her daily errands and adventures, and then when she is home or thinking deeply she would continue the story in her head. The story is representative of Parvana’s growth as a character, because every time a major plot point happens to affect Parvana. The symbolism between the two characters was a little hard to find at first since the stories have different tones to each other, but the deep meaning and emotional value of the connection makes it all worth it.

So, The Breadwinner is obviously a great movie that gets many aspects of what a movie should be. Its atmosphere, background, characters and setting are all brilliantly thought out and shown with wonderful animation. The plot is also suspenseful and exciting, and it will make the heart cry out for these characters. This is truly a great work of art.

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