The very aptly titled ‘Broken’ (2013).

9 Mar

Broken posterSuffering children! Parents blinded by unflinching devotion! Fledgling yet impossible romance! Broken is an unstuble example of how to draw an audience in with soapy heartstring-pulling. Directed by first-timer Rufus Norris, this film examines the dramatic ups and downs of a small, anti-social and vaguely xenophobic cul-de-sac in suburban England. Events are held together by the cruelly-named Skunk (Eloise Lawrence), a Type One Diabetes-stricken, naively innocent little girl with an astonishingly retro haircut. Perhaps set in the nineties, as the internet isn’t eluded to and because everything is so grey and grungy, this is not an easy watch.

A mish-mash of three  narratives, interlocked by Skunk’s involvement in each, Broken is a meandering film which really lacks focus. It’s trying to be too many things: one minute it’s a pessimistic teen school tale of bullying and the like, the next it’s a sultry drama with love-triangles galore, and then it’s a deeply unsettling story about mental deterioration and paedophilia. Only the latter is interesting enough to be worthy of a full-length feature, and had the movie been primarily concerned with this angle, it would almost certainly have been better. It throws so many ingredients into the pot and while each could be tasty on their own, the result is a rather unappealing casserole which is more likely to win a culinary prize than a cinematic one.

Broken tackles several social taboos head-on without really saying anything about them. Bullying, teen pregnancy, mental illness and child abuse all rear their often ignored visages, though director Norris doesn’t really comment on them other than by vaguely alluding to their negativity. Lusting after kids is bad! Getting knocked up at fourteen is bad! Neglecting your kids is bad! Yes, we know all that Broken, but we as an audience need more than that. Some may use its sheer level of miserableness as a stick with which to beat the movie, but this is coming at it from an unfair angle. Films can be harrowing yet wonderful – most of my favourite films fall into this category. Broken just isn’t a great movie.

Stars Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy endeavour to elevate the acting quality above the middle-ground, an objective clearly considered unessential by the rest of the cast. The former plays the struggling dad to a tee, while the latter’s emotionally torn English teacher is easily the most interesting character. I found Lawrence’s protagonist incredibly irritating from the get go; her toothy smile just didn’t work for me as I seldom cared what happened to her. The angry dad is just a raging bull, the parents across the road are paper thin and virtually every kid in this movie are noisy brats. Robert Emms, however, does a great job at playing the incredibly distressing, mentally unstable creep across the road.

Although the schmaltzy ending earns its emotional payoff, everything that comes before varies wildly from the incredibly dull to the painfully awkward. Broken is a haphazard mess of a movie which relies too much on implausible melodrama.

Simon says: the girl’s too-sweet-for-life smile and the hammy ending could, in fact, give YOU diabetes.

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