Film Reviews and Discussion.
Dir: Rufus Norris
How much misery can one audience take? This belligerently sombre drama will depress even the most hardened Eastenders fans. Be prepared.
A simple cul-de-sac is the setting for Broken, a British film about fear, loathing and bad relations. Throwing tight focus on a collection of neighbours locked in the suffocating grip of a dead-end street in North London, Rufus Norris draws upon this canvas to paint a layered picture. This is a tale about the grave consequences of misunderstanding and the indelible footprint of vicious reactionary measures.
One thing is for certain, this is a troubled street. A boy battling with mental illness and a violent single father live in disturbingly close quarters to each other. The set-up is for a precarious and volatile cocktail.
Primarily, proceedings are perceived through the eyes of Skunk, the young daughter to Tim Roth’s well-to-do father, Archie. Skunk is at the age in her young life where she is trying to establish her identity. This is in spite of the crumbling moral fabric that sits around her and despite the abundance of calamitous degradation taking place. Amongst the darkness, however, it is a pleasure to see the awkward but touching innocence of romance’s earliest trysts, which is beautifully evoked in all its wide-eyed pureness. These are easily the film’s lightest scenes.
However, when a film opens up with a vicious and abrupt physical assault, it is fair to say that an apt indication as to what the general tone will be for the next 90 mins has been provided. It is a similar opening to that of the car crash in Inarritu’s Amores Perros (2000) and bares a similar brand of significance for the resulting film. The diegesis plays meticulously with time and angle. It is evident that plenty of thought was given as to how the action will unfold. It is designed to play with the audience’s reflex judgement. It manipulatively forces evaluation and re-evaluation.
Numerous interesting questions are thrown up by this film. Traditional sociological and philosophical conundrums are posited in subtext; are we wired to repeat the mistakes of our forebears? Does nature or nurture define a person? Is the ‘right thing’ always the ‘best thing’? How can society blossom when the good and progressive is hamstrung by ill-doing and apathy?
Above all, Broken is about the freewheeling nature of life and how we are defined by the decisions we make and the actions we take rather than who we are. The non judgemental rationale is commendable.
With the twitchy curtain movements and gliding camera, has Norris created a Rear Window for the 21st century? No. He has, however, created an absorbing and balanced film that eschews condescending or patronising characters or audience alike. It may not be movie Prozac, but it is a slice of suburban grit wrapped in grizzly grey. Do not let this description be a deterrent. If you enjoy the works of Andrea Arnold or Shane Meadows (heck, even Eastenders), you will most likely ‘enjoy’ this picture.
If you like this, try this: Fish Tank (2009) – Life in a council estate in Tilbury, Essex. Mia’s world is transformed when her mum’s new boyfriend arrives on the scene. It may not be a comfortable watch, but it sure as hell is an absorbing one. Some may say this is poverty tourism. Not to these eyes.
You can find the trailer for Broken here: