This was about my only chance to see this movie, as it opened and shut – if indeed it ever showed in my home town – with the alacrity of a clam between high and low tide. Nothing could be more out of the mainstream than a subtitled movie, starring unknown and/or foreign actors, in the harsh high country of Afghanistan during the relatively idyllic period before the Soviet invasion, and under the joyless and hypocritical rule of the Taliban, who turned the place into sort of religious concentration camp, full of rules against practically every normal human recreation or amusement and enforced them with murderous severity. But it is a lovely and rewarding reaffirmation about friendship, family and finding the courage to do the right thing.

It begins with images of kites, dancing in a clear blue sky – an image that is repeated over and over, as the story runs from the near present of a talented young writer, a member of the Afghan Diaspora. Amir is happily married, has just received a box of copies of his first book (only another writer can truly appreciate what that means – the first printed copies of your own words!) and a message from an old family friend, telling him that he must return to Afghanistan. But first he returns in memory to his privileged childhood in Kabul, to adventures with his best friend Hassan, the son of one of his fathers’ servants. Hassan is his perfect foil in being boldly confident, where Amir is rather timid and shuns confrontations. Hassan loves the stories that Amir creates and Amir cheers on Hassan’s skill in kite-flying completion – and they both adore action movies, having memorized lines from Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson – although Hassan is startled to learn that Charles Bronson is not, in fact Afghani – he’s only dubbed that way. Amir’s father is loving and indulgent of his son, and his friendship with Hassan. When that friendship is fractured, first by an ugly encounter with a street bully and by Amir’s guilt-ridden reaction to it, Amir’s father is distressed. But events overtake the personal. The Russians invade, and Amir and his father flee, smuggled out concealed in the hold of a tanker-truck.

Twenty years later, Amir returns to Kabul, to discover secrets in the rubble of that quiet and prosperous place that he knew with the eyes of childhood. It is heartbreakingly changed from what he remembered: women are forced to wear veils and executions by stoning are carried out at half-time in a soccer match in the sports stadium. Men must wear beards, and western clothes are forbidden, and so is the flying of kites. There is nothing left except memories, his intention of rescuing Hassan’s orphaned son and to redeem himself, discovering secrets in the rubble of the town that he once knew so well.

The story develops in beautiful, pitch-perfect detail, and the performances from the actors are outstanding, especially Homayoun Ershadi as Amir’s father: even on the run, and in illness and poverty he remains a man of unfailing grace and strength. The actors playing the boys Amir and Hassan are natural and wholly charming. This movie has done very well by the book that it was based on – not always the case with best-selling books.

The Kite Runner will be available on March 25th from and from other commercial outlets.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. More about her books is at her website

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