By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, December 1, at the Landmark Opera Plaza in San Francisco and the Landmark Shattuck in Berkeley.
The Secret of Kells co-directory Twomey makes her solo feature debut with this animated story of an Afghanistan family barely surviving under the thumb of the Taliban.
When an ex-educator turned street merchant gets imprisoned without charges, his wife and family, including an adult daughter, an infant and a brave adolescent girl named Parvana, have no way to make money or purchase food. Under violently enforced edicts, adult women are forbidden from holding jobs and showing their faces in public, while shop owners are not allowed to sell to females, so Parvana is forced to masquerade as a boy to buy goods and find work. Out in the world on her own, Parvana meets another girl posing as a boy to feed her all-female family, and the two team up while Parvana tries to free her father.
A downbeat drama with elements of inspirational fantasy, The Breadwinner lays out the monstrous injustices of life in a fundamentalist regime (girls have more freedom than adult women, but boys have infinitely more freedom than girls), but there’s no compelling reason why this story was animated instead of filmed.