“In both novel and film form, The Kite Runner recounts a simple yet shrewd story about that favorite American pastime: self-improvement. [The lead character] Amir’s childhood mistake isn’t a careless juvenile offense; it’s a human stain that must be scrubbed out through self-abnegation, confession and personal transformation.

“Yet, watching this film, you are left to wonder whom precisely is all this suffering for — is it for Amir? Hassan? Afghanistan? Or do Hassan and the story’s other sad children — especially those hollow-eyed boys and girls glimpsed during the preposterous climax in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan — suffer because it’s possible to package other people’s pain and turn it into a commercial diversion?

“It’s no surprise that for all its foreign trappings, The Kite Runner tells the same old comforting story. We wouldn’t have it any other way.” — from Manohla Dargis‘s 12.14 N.Y. Times review — a stake in the heart of one of the better-liked “heart” movies of the awards season.