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Soundtrack review: The breadwinner (Mychael Danna & Jeff Danna – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The breadwinner (Mychael Danna & Jeff Danna – 2017)

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“The Breadwinner” is a 2017 Canadian-Irish-Luxembourgian adult animated drama film by Cartoon Saloon directed by Nora Twomey and executive produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin, and Angelina Jolie. Based on the best-selling novel by Deborah Ellis, the film was released on November 17, 2017. After her father Nurullah is unjustly arrested, Parvana, a girl in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, must dress as a boy so she can work to support her mother Fattema and her sister Soraya. Brothers Mychael Danna and Jeff Danna wrote the score.

The score opens as expected with an cue that has an ethnic sound to place the story geographically. “The land of the noble” has that string sound of promotional spots for tourism in countries from that area. The sound is nothing new but it’s mysterious and pleasant. “Too old for stories” goes even deeper in the flute desert atmosphere and I imagine a scene by a tent, in front of a fire. I am enjoying this dark and dreamy mood as it’s melodic and pleasant. This score is quite calming in its opening stages. As the action starts the music gets louder, more percussion oriented, without losing its ethnic sound. The two composers who usually excel in he Celtic traditional music genre show that they can write music just as well if they change the area. “The breadwinner” is a simple score but it doesn’t need to be richer to make its point. Sometimes the music is so traditional that it makes me feel as if I am in a camp there where the local are playing their instruments instead of at home in front of a computer. I like this far away and mysterious fairy tale setting.

If you enjoy Oriental vibes this score is everything you need. The composers rarely take the music out of that zone and use the time and story at hand to actually develop and deepen this sound and give “The breadwinner” a very authentic identity. A cue like “Sulayman defies the Elephant King” for example is a master lesson in ethnic instruments and how to play them.

The music of “The breadwinner” is light and enjoyable; the comedic moments are displayed with playful and lively cues, the Indian musical inserts are also pleasant to hear even if not as rewarding as what Thomas Newman did with the genre these past couple of years. The Danna brothers deliver constantly good music overall and this score is no exception. Even without memorable themes this score is texturally pleasant and breezy and it leaves me in a good and relaxed mood. My favourite cue ends up being “Raise your words”, the most emotional piece from the entire score.

Cue rating: 84 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 9 / 23

Album excellence: 40%

Highlights:
Too Old for Stories
Photographs Are Forbidden
Food Makes Things Better
Halo Around the Moon
Sulayman Milks a Goat
Goodbye Shauzia
Raise Your Words

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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