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Home Reviews Cinema reviews Film review: Broken
Film review: Broken Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Thursday, 07 March 2013 17:21
Eloise Lawrence, Broken
Director: Rufus Norris
Cast: Eloise Lawrence, Tim Roth, Bill Milner, Rory Kinnear, Zana Marjanovic, Robert Emms
Certificate: 15

“Why do only bad things happen?” That’s Skunk (Lawrence) talking to her dad, Archie (Roth). Given that she’s just witnessed the guy across the road (Rory Kinnear with his top off) kick the crap out of neighbour Rick (Emms) for supposedly touching up his under-age daughter, an attack that causes Rick to get committed to a mental hospital, you can’t blame her for asking. Archie smiles as he replies: “Good things happen.”

Not in this film they don’t. Rufus Norris’ film Broken, based on Daniel Clay’s novel of the same name, is essentially a string of terrible things happening to nice people. Archie’s cleaner, Kasia (a charming Marjanovic) is lovely, but her love life is far less lucky. Skunk’s teacher, Mike (an understated Murphy)? He’s awesome. That doesn’t stop him getting smacked in the face.

Mark O'Rowe’s script stumbles through an English cul-de-sac, systemically destroying the lives of everyone who lives there. There’s no real structure to it. The different stories overlap in a higgledy-piggledy mosaic of sadness: it’s the most miserable movie montage since Pixar’s Up, if the opening lasted for two hours. And every now and then two local kids drove by and threw bags of dog poo at people.

So why, then, is it all so uplifting? That’s where Eloise Lawrence comes in. A sprightly newcomer to the screen, she skips and smiles with the effortless charm of Sally Hawkins and frowns with the pathos of Elisabeth Moss. She’s astounding – and Rufus Norris knows it.

Framing the film around her, we share her perspective of the world, taking time out from the pain of life to meet her boyfriend and visit her junkyard hideout where cars crash into the ground with deafening bangs. All the while, music from the Electric Wave Bureau bashes drums and celestas in the background like a British Beasts of the Southern Wild.

It’s an irresistibly charming mix, washed in daylight by DoP Rob Hardy, which the talented cast inject with the unpredictable nature of real life.

Then, just as you settle in to the feel-good vibe, the summer holidays come to an end and Skunk goes back to school. In a matter of minutes, she’s been pushed over and had her lunch money stolen.

Why do only bad things happen? Some syrupy dream sequences may be overplayed, but there’s more good than bad on show here. By the time the heart-stopping fit of a finale unravels, your smile will be as big as your frown. And that’s where Broken’s power lies: a balancing act held in place by a young actress on the cusp of maturity, it’s the cinematic equivalent of being punched in the stomach while being told a very funny joke.

Oh yes, good things happen. Broken is one of them.