Broken - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
THERE’S much to admire in Rufus Norris’s Broken, not least the central performances from Tim Roth and newcomer Eloise Laurence. But the film itself is deeply flawed.
A social drama that examines the class war as seen through the innocent eyes of Laurence’s Skunk, it often gets stuck between gritty and hard-hitting and overly arty.
One too many ensemble players also mean that several storylines aren’t fully realised, leading to a sense of being unfulfilled.
The story picks up as Skunk witnesses her brutish neighbour Bob (Rory Kinnear) viciously assault fellow neighbour, the unassuming Rick (Robert Emms), in a seemingly unprovoked attack.
But as motivations become clear, so the tensions that already exist within the cul-de-sac come to the fore as Rick struggles to cope with the aftermath of the attack, Bob attempts to keep control of his wayward daughters and Archie (Roth) attempts to protect Skunk, his daughter.
Also thrown into the mix is Archie’s house assistant Kasia (Zana Marjanovic) and her boyfriend and Skunk’s teacher Mike (Cillian Murphy), as well as a potential coming-of-age romance for Skunk with a brash youngster.
With so much going on, Broken has plenty to hold the interest and often succeeds in providing a brutally honest depiction of middle Britain and the many ‘broken’ elements that comprise it.
In doing so, it also affords Laurence a striking breakthrough performance as Skunk (endearingly combining often fragile innocence with kindness and fierce resolve), while also providing Roth with a more subtle, under-stated role as her father. The scenes between the two of them are genuinely affecting.
But Norris, who has a background in theatre, sometimes feels like he’s sabotaging his own message by juxtaposing some gut-wrenching moments of hard-hitting drama with other moments that take arty flights of fancy and pull you out of the movie… not to mention other melodramatic moments that feel overly contrived.
He also lets down several cast members with the likes of Emms, Murphy and even Kinnear not really afforded enough time to get under the skins of their characters, thereby running the risk of making them seem more like stereotypes. It says much about the calibre of the performers that they often rise above the shortcomings in the screenplay.
Hence, while certainly keeping you engaged throughout, Broken ends up feeling as fault-ridden as its name suggests and one that might have fared better as a longer television mini-series. It’ll also leave you feeling more than a little depressed.
Running time: 90mins
UK Release Date: March 8, 2013