“Subliming, moving and magical” are not wrong words to describe The Breadwinner.
It is a moving movie and the “magic” is part of its enchantment upon us.
The first thing to be noticed is that the kind of animation doesn’t follow realism, but the simple style of a fairy tale book for kids and sometimes reminds us of books with three-dimensional pages.
Pavana is the protagonist who, like Mulan, dresses as a boy to life outside, where the world around her seems to belong only to the Taliban’s men. Here, this decision doesn’t happen not only because a war is happening but because the Islam regime forbids women to occupy public space.
Pavana finds a friend from school. It means from a time when girls were allowed to study. Her friend also disguises herself as a boy to help her father in the family’s business. From this moment onwards, they become inseparable and will work together to Pavana gets the money to stubborn the guard on Pul-e-Charkhi prison, where Pavana’s father was unfairly imprisoned. In this journey, she will meet Razaq – a man with a good heart. He will be a kind of “providential helper” for Pavana.
In this review, I’m not going to discuss the representation of Islam regime in Afghanistan, because all reviews already did it. I’m more interested in write a few words about the human relationships constructed among the characters during the movie.
In this movie, there are many kinds of relationships and feelings. In the beginning, we can see the fear. All merchants are supervised by armed guards to guarantee that they are obeying the law strictly and without observing any other factors, as solidarity. It’s true that, until the end of the movie, we will see that some of the merchants only want to take care of their business selfishly and regardless of the situation; but, in the facial expression of others, we can see that they feel sorry for being unable to do anything to help Pavana because they know that with oppression there is no dialogue.
Secondly, we see the interaction between Razaq and Pavana’s father. In the silence, they understand each other through shared pain and regret. They feel sorry for that war that they are forced to carry on despite their wishes and suffer its consequences.
Afterward, Razaq will interact with Pavana. She will read to him a letter from his homeland telling about his wife’s death. Later, she will teach Raza how to write his wife’s name. All this kindness will be rewarded. In the end, Razaq rescues Pavana’s father from prison.
Their interactions confirm the kindness always results in more kindness. So, even within that hopeless situation, human begins can feel and act with empathy and reach out their hands to others. On the other hand, we see how some people are able to find in the external convictions the justification to their twisted personalities, as Idrees shows us.
Pavana’s family is very warm and supportive of their members. Her parents were professionals before the war and they taught their children how to read and write and to love stories. We don’t know much about the older sister, but we can see that she became the support of the entire family after the father was imprisoned. That was a big tragedy for them because he was the only adult male, so he was the only breadwinner. Another male in the house was a very young kid, who couldn’t fulfill this task.
This family strengthens their bounds Telling stories during that hard period. After the father left the house, it was the only way found to keep hope and to calm their hearts. Through the story of Sulayman, we also discover how the older son dead. For me, Sulayman is a unifying character of Pavana (action), and her brother (male spirit). A character that was created to help her overcome the pain of losing her older brother, support the absence of her beloved father and go through the despair of her actual situation, as the new breadwinner.
By the previous account, I wanted to show that humanity cannot be reduced to State’s affair, laws, or other external expressions. We are complex begins who have personalities, cultures (family, city, religion, state….) and social customs, and all the time we are interacting with the others.
It’s impossible to reduce every fact to the Taliban government only. We need to think also about the role of Russia. The reason for the beginning of the war and the actors implied it and so on.
Finally, Islam per se can’t be blamed; as we see in the movie, the family of Pavana still pray for God, even if in His name they are being oppressed. That means that religion and faith are different.
The breadwinner is an interesting movie and provides reflections on gender oppression, but, in my opinion, it is a superficial one when we look at it from a broader perspective.