Edgar Cochran’s review published on Letterboxd:
Whereas Makhmalbaf would treat the Afghanistan/Iranian conflict one year later with Kandahar, featuring a vast desert full of tragedies, injustices, dangers and landmines, Ghobadi would rise with his marvelous debut in 2000 taking charge of the Iraq/Iran front, featuring the same lifestyle elements, but replacing the desert with snowfields. Later on, in 2004, he would proceed to treat the Turkey/Iraq frontier with almost equal power.
Credited with being the first feature film in Iran to be released in Kurdish to achieve an international release, a language that had been banned in Iranian schools since the 1940s, A Time for Drunken Horses is a heartbreaking account of the struggles that the inhabitants of the country, especially at the border, have to face in order to survive. Ghobadi places a protagonistic cast of children in the middle of the circumstances, as a 12-year-old is forced to take charge and become the head of his family after the death of the father. With no parental figures, they are submerged into an adult world difficult to adapt,
Everything is painted with strokes of overwhelming realism, and it all acquires a disturbing nature when we see children carrying on against all odds. The film has documentary airs because this was based on a short documentary that Ghobadi himself made one year ago as his first cinematic effort. He is probably the most unapologetic Iranian director in the portrayal of his tragedies, but everything put together works perfectly: the sheer brutality against the beautiful landscapes and cinematography, the war-themed settings against perseverance, the social injustice against the authentic love bonds uniting the younglings. No manipulation, no melodrama: only injustices as a part of a catastrophic scenario where the roles of children and adults are mixed, and turned upside down in a vortex of desperations.
Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize and the Golden Camera at the Cannes Film Festival, A Time for Drunken Horses is a masterpiece that, like Cannes stated, offers a "compassionate but rigorous depiction of a harsh reality where horses and humans share the same predicament."