The Breadwinner (MovieManDan’s Guest Review)
NOT YET FINISHED
Intro: Over the past few days; a strong contender in the 2017 Best Animated Feature race has emerged in “The Breadwinner” – the latest film from the folks at GKIDS. This title has been stealing top prize from Disney Pixar’s “Coco” in several of the smaller critics groups and it’s been gaining huge momentum along the way. This film had its world premiere at TIFF ‘17 where it opened to some great reviews but I don’t think many were expecting this one to be as large of a threat to Pixar’s “Coco” as it’s quickly becoming. The film was just recently released in Limited Release and so most are seeing this one at home through screeners instead of on the big screen *as they haven’t been given the option yet* but regardless – people are none-the-less seeing it and it’s quickly turning heads along the way.
I recently had my opportunity to check out the film out for myself and I was lucky enough to catch a one night only screening in my area so I made the jump and ditched the screener I was issued in favor of the big screen experience.
So, you’re probably wondering, what did I think?
Well before I dive in with my thoughts on the film, allow me to first offer the Plot Synopsis and Trailer for those of you who are out of the loop on this one.
Plot: Based on Deborah Ellis’ bestselling novel of the same name, “The Breadwinner” follows an 11-year-old girl named: Parvana who in 2001 is growing up with her family in Afghanistan under strict Taliban control. She spends her days in the marketplace with her father – selling what they can to get by until one day he is wrongfully arrested and taken away from home.
It’s from here that Parvana is forced to step up – she cuts off her hair and begins dressing like a boy in order to provide for her family. Working alongside her friend Shauzia, Parvana discovers a new world of freedom–and danger. With undaunted courage, Parvana draws strength from the fantastical stories she invents, as she embarks on a quest to find her father and reunite her family. *GKIDS*
Review: Despite high expectations, I’m afraid to say that “The Breadwinner” is one of the most crushing disappointments of the entire year for me. As a GKIDS production and based off the bestselling novel of the same name, I had extremely high hopes for this film and to say that I was let down would be an absolute understatement. The film not only failed to grab me on an emotional level but it also failed to suck me into its world and that’s really unfortunate. I just really couldn’t get into this one no matter how much I tried and as a result, I really can’t understand why so many others are so captivated by it.
I’m not trying to knock on any of the Awards Groups who have just recently picked this film as the “Best Animated Feature” of 2017 as I admire most of their works and writings but seriously guys, come on… What do you guys see that I don’t? Sure, the film is beautifully animated and has some solid voice acting but what else? It’s certainly not what I would call a good adaptation of the source material. It’s passable, yes but at times it feels to much like its own thing – barely following the novel at all in places/ignoring the material. It’s always a frustrating experience to walk out of a film that so many others have loved when you just don’t see why and yet here we are…
I remember my class reading this book way back in Elementary and while details are faint I can still vaguely remember how the novel went. Many of my fellow bloggers and critics alike are going out of their way to praise this adaptation for bringing such mature themes to the screen but I must say that the book is much darker and much bleaker than what we get here. In fact, the movie removes some of the most disturbing parts of the book and I don’t understand why that choice was made in the first place. Why include some and not all. The book is essentially about the loss of childhood innocence in war times and a number of key scenes have been removed here. This film had the potential to be so beautiful, so heartbreaking and yet I was left just so cold by it. Yes, that’s right this is another case where “the book is better” and I will gladly argue with anyone who thinks otherwise.
In Conclusion/My Verdict: 2.0 out of 5.0 Stars – While beautifully animated and well acted, this is one of the cases where “the book is better” and I was ultimately underwhelmed by this adaptation of Ellis’ beloved novel. It’s not as focused as the source material nor is it as emotionally engaging and I really don’t see why so many others are praising this one so highly. I’m in the minority so I would still recommend for those who are interested to go check it out when they get the chance to form their own thoughts but I really just don’t get the acclaim here.
If you are interested in checking out the film for yourself – please check your local listings for possible show times. Despite the recent acclaim, it’s unlikely that the film will go nationwide at any time as it’s simply too small of a title but local art house cinemas should get it eventually. A small group nearby booked this film and that’s how I got to see it on the big screen. There will be lots of one night only screenings and one week runs/exclusive engagements so be on the look out…
The good folks at GKIDS are distributing the film in the US and the fine folks over at Elevation Pictures are handling the Canadian release.