Starring: Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Eloise Laurence
You may like this if you liked: Wonderland (Michael Winterbottom, 1999), Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999), Gypo (Jan Dunn, 2005)
A story of the intertwining lives of the residents of a North London cul-de-sac told through the eyes of an 11 year old called Skunk (Laurence). After witnessing one of her neighbours, widower and father of three girls Bob (Rory Kinnear) brutally attack a younger mentally ill neighbour called Rick (Robert Emms) it has repercussions for both their families and Skunk’s, including her father (Roth) and teacher (Murphy).
Based on a novel, Broken is certainly nothing new but it is a raw, honest, involving albeit slightly contrived low key gritty Brit drama. The melodrama and network narrative approach do lead to an increasingly contrived TV drama feel to proceedings which unfortunately immediately hampers Broken from being a depiction of the struggles of everyday life as powerful as for example, Micheal Winterbottom’s Wonderland.
However, story aside it is how this film deals with its characters that makes it so engrossing. These are all very real characters that we all know, who are simply trying to make the best of what they have in life. Every character is depicted with raw honesty and Broken shows with genuine emotional involvement that no character is ever black and white. Many of these characters do things, that if looked at in isolation are easy to criticise but then when taken into context are understandable as that particular character is doing what they personally think is the right thing to do. This is personified perfectly by the character of Bob, played flawlessly by Rory Kinnear. No one is perfect; we are all flawed and sometimes act on impulse and do things we later regret but at the time we thought were the right thing to do.
As Broken is told predominantly through the eyes of Skunk, it also serves well as a coming of age drama. She is trying to understand the world around her and this experience is depicted very effectively. As the main protagonist, her character arc provides an emotionally effective centre of which the plot developments take place. In what is her first film role, Eloise Lawrence gives an excellent performance as Skunk. Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy may possibly be the main reason many will see this film, and they provide emotional substance in their roles, but the entire cast is excellent.
Broken is a very raw, honest and watchable little Brit drama with excellent performances, effectively naturalistic dialogue and brutally honest character depictions. However the extremely contrived and clichéd nature of the narrative developments, as well as a very pointless scene towards the end make Broken often feel like a ponderous British soap opera.