I don't think I'm going out on a limb here when I say that the Taliban are a pack of shits. Slavishly devoted to a crooked reading of a religion they have no reason to believe is true, the more I hear about them the less I like them. And so when you set a story in a world that is controlled by these medieval-but-somehow-modern-day barbarians, and I get a sense that the story is a realistic one and it's unlikely that someone in tights and a cape isn't going to sweep down and punch them in their stupid faces, I get sad. It's not that a tough story set in a tough world can't make a good film, but for me it puts a ceiling on the enjoyment I can get from it, because any ray of hope is dashed by the knowledge that the characters, after whatever small victories they can find, will still be trapped under this cruel regime. And this film does a great job of finding those moments of happiness, and those people who will show true kindness, and the bleak backdrop serves to make these moments all the more precious and meaningful. But there was a part of me that always knew that this was the kind of film that wouldn't allow truly happy endings, for any of its characters. Having said that, the film is animated beautifully, the bonds it creates between its characters are genuine and warm, and the hardships are felt very keenly. It's a powerful film that serves as a powerful reminder that people are, at this very moment, living in terrible conditions dictated by terrible people. But I think it is possible to create that feeling and tell a more cohesive, less depressing story at the same time. As the film itself seems to tell us, stories can be a great way to escape from the horrors of the world. I'd have preferred it if this film had practiced what it preached a little more.