#NewsBytesRecommends: 'The Breadwinner' on Netflix—story of courage against human horrors
The 2017 animated film The Breadwinner, based on Deborah Ellis' namesake best-selling novel, packs a punch in ways more than one. Available on Netflix, it boasts powerful storytelling with a young girl as the "hero" and demonstrates themes such as unflinching valiance, heroism, and victory in the wake of insurmountable odds. Set in a horrific Afghanistan, it moves you and profoundly stirs your soul.
What is the film all about?
The film revolves around the titular "breadwinner," Parvana, a prepubescent girl who finds herself creaking under the weight of gigantic responsibilities when her father is unlawfully incarcerated by the authorities. Since the Taliban doesn't allow women to work, she trims her hair and matures overnight to put food on the table. Her veil of "modesty" comes off, and a cap of courage comes on.
Parvana is forced to mature overnight, betray her childhood
One of the most striking aspects of The Breadwinner is how Parvana races against time to save her childhood somehow but is tragically unable to. Her father sells the family's belongings to earn measly amounts—it's a punch in the gut to realize he's selling their collective memories. Her heart flutters as she looks at her glittery dress—one she never wore, one she never will.
Fictional world unfortunately mirrors our own
The story's location, Afghanistan, is a reminder of the cruel realities the country is fraught with and how they impact men and women in starkly different ways. While Parvana's father loses his leg in the Soviet-Afghan War, she, her mother, and her sister unwillingly become "liabilities" for him since they cannot even move out of their home sans a man.
First scene foreshadows somber, dark themes
The Academy Award-nominated film opens with the sounds of seemingly endless chaos and cacophony, a disclaimer to how the film will turn out: there is no peace or harmony, only death, dismay, destruction, and misery. From the first scene itself, a significantly unsettling feeling creeps in, one that doesn't leave for most of the film. It also mirrors Afghanistan's deeply disturbing reality today.
Parvana's story becomes metaphor for several others like her
Parvana becomes a microcosm for several other girls like her, not just in Afghanistan but around the world, as someone whose ambitions and life are pricked with thorns placed meticulously by her circumstances and society. However, it is enormously satisfying how she subverts gender roles and becomes the "man" of the house—responsibility, heroism, and courage, after all, are never defined by only one gender.
Watch film on Netflix today
At less than two hours, The Breadwinner is profound without being preachy and effective without being over the top. This visceral film invites you into its world from the get-go, and you begin rooting for Parvana even before realizing it. Its optimistic ending, in particular, stays with you. At last, the sun often shines bright, and Parvana's story is a glorious reminder of that.