Director: Rufus Norris
Starring: Tim Roth, Eloise Laurence, Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear, Denis Lawson, Bill Milner
Written by: Mark O’Rowe and (novel) Daniel Clay
Running Time: 91 mins
Release date: 8th March 2013
Broken is one of those British films that comes out every so often that is so bleak, as you are watching it, you long for something positive or light-hearted to happen otherwise you will leave feeling more depressed than you did before you entered the cinema. Fortunately, the inclusion of a down-to-earth performance from Tim Roth and a promising debut from Eloise Laurence makes it just about bearable.
Skunk is an innocent 11 year old girl suffering from diabetes and living with her single father, Archie, her elder brother, Jed and their housekeeper, Kasia, in a cur-de-sac. After witnessing a violent attack from her neighbour, Mr Oswald, on fellow neighbour, Rick, Skunk finds her innocence disappear as a series of brutal occurrences seem to surround her, changing her life forever.
We all know that we live in a society full of hatred and brutality. We see it on the news almost every day. The TV soaps are full of story lines that hardly make you think that life is wonderful, so escaping into the cinema for a few hours to be entertained is something you won’t find here. Like having every nightmarish event that occurred in all the episodes of Brookside thrown together for 90 minutes, this doesn’t let up on its depressive state. Violence, teenage pregnancy, death, broken hearts, bullying, it’s all here for you to enjoy (and I am being ironic there).
Making his debut as a director, Rufus Norris has some obvious skills and talents for the job. Using flashbacks, disjointed editing and grainy 16 mm film stock, Norris doesn’t allow the narrative any room to be coherent and while it does look great, it doesn’t always work. An event happens, then we are shown the events leading up to it, which is fine but happens far too often and gets in the way. It’s fine to experiment with cinema but with a story so dark it doesn’t propel the piece along, just slowing the bleakness even more.
The performances are very good, Cillian Murphy, as a new teacher to the local school, is fine but not given too much to stretch him, while Rory Kinnear, who we know is a strong actor, is left to play a stereotype thug than a rounded character, a man who is willing to listen to his lying daughters and use his fists than listen to reason.
The film does have two saving graces. Tim Roth as Archie, a solicitor and single father to Skunk, is terrific. Underplaying his role and giving us a fully believable performance, you can’t help but feel for his plight, showing his love and affection as well as being protective to his young sibling. Roth has always been a brilliant actor and here he is allowed to really shine.
But the film belongs to newcomer Eloise Laurence. As the innocent young girl, she commands the screen and the one ray of hope. Brimming with talent and a smile that lights up each scene she appears in, she is the sunlight in a world of darkness and it wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t see more of her in the future.
This is a well made film that I am sure will find a small and appreciative audience but in times when we live in such misery and depression, having to sit through a film that depicts life far too closely isn’t my idea of great entertainment. This is why I don’t watch soap operas. Great performances, good film making, shame about the dark nature.