Broken (R16)

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Review byMatthew Turner9/03/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Well made and engagingly written, this is a hard-hitting drama with a strong central performance from newcomer Eloise Laurence, but it's ultimately so melodramatic and reliant on coincidence that it feels overly contrived.

What's it all about?
Directed by Rufus Norris, Broken (not to be confused with last week's Broken City) is based on a novel by Daniel Clay and stars newcomer Eloise Laurence as 11 year old diabetic Skunk, who witnesses her cul-de-sac neighbour, quick-tempered single father Bob Oswald (Rory Kinnear), violently attack simple-minded neighbour Rick (Robert Emms) for apparently raping Saskia (Faye Daveney), one of his three daughters. When it transpires that Saskia was lying, tensions run high in the cul-de-sac, particularly when Saskia begins flirting with Skunk's older brother, Jed (Bill Milner).

Meanwhile, Skunk's au pair Kasia (Zana Marjanovic) begins a relationship with her father, Archie (Tim Roth) after breaking up with her teacher, Mike (Cillian Murphy), who, in turn, is also accused of abusing one of the three Oswald daughters after he intervenes to stop Skunk being bullied. At the same time, Rick's parents (Clare Burt and Denis Lawson) worry about their son after his attack by Bob and decide to have him committed and Skunk begins a tentative relationship with local boy Dillon (George Sargeant), who might have to move away soon.

The Good
Eloise Laurence is excellent as Skunk (the closeness of the name to To Kill a Mockingbird's Scout is no coincidence), whose eyes are gradually opened to the fact that the world can be a pretty miserable place. That said, her life isn't all doom and gloom, as evidenced by her warm and frequently amusing relationship with her father (Tim Roth on top form) and the touching nature of her tentative romance with Dillon.

In addition, there's terrific support from Murphy and Marjanovic, while Kinnear does well to find a note of sympathy within Oswald rather than making him an out-and-out psycho. On top of that, the film is impressively shot, courtesy of Rob Hardy's cinematography and makes strong use of its various locations.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is that it piles on the misery and coincidence so thick and fast that you could be forgiven for thinking the characters live in the world's unluckiest cul-de-sac. By the third act, the bleakness is off the scale and the film eventually nose-dives into flat-out melodrama, ultimately detracting from the sense of realism in the first half.

Worth seeing?
Broken is a well made and superbly acted drama that marks both newcomer Eloise Laurence and debut director Norris out as future British talents to watch. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 18/10/2019 06:16

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