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Pairing gritty storytelling with gorgeous images makes animated 'The Breadwinner' unusual

Animator Nora Twomey was a key player in two of the best animated films of recent years, “The Secret of Kells” and “Song of the Sea,” and now, with “The Breadwinner,” she has an exceptional feature of her own.

Though it's set in dusty Kabul, Afghanistan, and not emerald Ireland, “Breadwinner” shares with its predecessors a vivid sense of a very specific culture as well as a gift for strikingly beautiful visuals.

Kabul may not sound like a likely site for luminous images, but Twomey and her team show us a city of captivating sandstone-hued houses where colorful flowers and teeming markets come to bright and convincing life.

But beauty aside, this is an unexpectedly tough-minded story of an 11-year-old girl forced to take a stand against the harsh excesses of life under the Taliban. It’s not animated business as usual, and that makes it special. In selected theaters.

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