The Breadwinner

Film Bouquets 2018




2018 has yielded a lot of interesting films, and it’s been hard to choose which most deserve Bouquets. Still, we’ve managed it, and here – in order of viewing – are those that made the cut.


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Alexander Payne’s brilliant satire had its detractors, mostly people who had expected a knockabout comedy –  but we thought it was perfectly judged and beautifully played by Matt Damon and Hong Chau.



A dazzling, inventive and sometimes surreal love letter to Mexico, this Pixar animation got everything absolutely right, from the stunning artwork to the vibrant musical score. In a word, ravishing.

The Shape of Water


Guillermo del Toro’s spellbinding fantasy chronicled the most unlikely love affair possible with great aplomb. Endlessly stylish, bursting with creativity, it also featured a wonderful performance from Sally Hawkins.

Lady Bird


This semi-autobiographical story featured Saoirse Ronan as a self-centred teenager, endlessly at war with her harassed mother (Laurie Metcalfe). Scathingly funny but at times heart-rending, this was an assured directorial debut from Greta Gerwig.

I, Tonya


Imagine Good Fellas on ice skates and you’ll just about have the measure of this stunning biopic of ice skater Tonya Harding, built around an incandescent performance from Margot Robbie, and featuring a soundtrack to die for.

A Quiet Place


This film had audiences around the world too self-conscious to unwrap a sweet or slurp their cola. Written and directed by John Kransinski and starring Emily Blunt, it was one of the most original horror films in a very long time – and we loved it.

The Breadwinner


Set in Kabul, this stunning film offered a totally different approach to animation, and a heart-wrenching tale of a young woman’s fight for survival in a war-torn society. To say that it was gripping would be something of an understatement.

American Animals


Based on a true story and skilfully intercutting actors with real life protagonists, Bart Layton’s film was a little masterpiece that gleefully played with the audience’s point of view to create something rather unique.

Bad Times at the El Royale


Drew Goddard’s noir tale brought together a brilliant cast in a unique location, and promptly set about pulling the rug from under our feet, again and again. There was a superb Motown soundtrack and a career making performance from Cynthia Erivo.



Based on a Richard Ford novel, this subtle but powerful slow-burner was the directorial debut of Paul Dano and featured superb performances from Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal and newcomer, Ed Oxenbould.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs


The Coen brothers were in exquisite form with this beautifully styled Western, which featured six separate tales of doom and despair, enlivened by a shot of dark humour. But, not for the first (or the last) time, we heard those dreaded words ‘straight to Netflix.’



Another Netflix Original (and one that’s hotly tipped for the Oscars), this was Alfonso Cuaron’s lovingly crafted semi-autobiographical tale off his childhood in Mexico, and of the nanny who looked after him and his siblings. It was absolutely extraordinary.

Philip Caveney & Susan Singfield

The Breadwinner


While most of the accolades for animation tend to be hoovered up by bigger studios like America’s Pixar and Japan’s Studio Ghibli, it’s important to note that there are a few smaller independents doing incredible work out there – and Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon is certainly one of the finest. What’s more, they deserve all the plaudits going for having the sheer guts to tackle this difficult and heartrending tale of everyday survival.

Set in Kabul in 2001, when the Taliban were exercising total control over the war-ravaged city, The Breadwinner, based on a novel by Deborah Ellis, tells the story of Parvana (voiced by Saara Chaudry), an 11 year old girl faced with a tough decision. When her father, a crippled war veteran, is imprisoned for the unspeakable crime of possessing books, his wife and two daughters find themselves in an impossible situation. Women are not allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a man, so the most basic tasks – shopping, fetching water, going for medicine – are now forbidden to them. Trapped in their house, they face possible starvation. In desperation, Parvana cuts off her long hair, dons the clothes that belonged to her deceased brother, Sulayman and heads out into a hostile and dangerous world to try and make ends meet. Meanwhile, she is determined to visit the prison where she knows her father is being held captive – and, each evening, in order to take the family’s mind off their sorrows, she tells her little brother, Zaki, a made-up story about a boy’s heroic quest.

It’s hard to convey just how powerful and heart-wrenching The Breadwinner is. The animation is beautifully done, the simply-rendered characters managing to convey so much with every expression – and there’s a wonderful juxtaposition between the grim reality of Parvana’s daily life and the more whimsically-animated sequences that illustrate extracts from her regular storytelling sessions. The family’s story arc is suffused with an almost overpowering melancholy and there are scenes of harsh brutality here, that manage to be all the more effective for being told so economically – be warned, this really isn’t a film for younger children, who may find much of the content disturbing.

Director Norma Twomey has done an incredible job marshalling the talents of the hundreds of animators who worked on this and the way the film builds to a compelling and pulse-quickening climax is just one of its many strengths. The only disappointing thing for me is watching it in a  cinema where only a few people have bothered to turn up to see it. Please take the time to catch this wonderful film on the big screen, where it looks absolutely ravishing. Not only is it a considerable artistic achievement, it’s also a powerful and important story from the world’s recent history.

5 stars

Philip Caveney