Film Title: Broken
Director: Rufus Norris
Starring: Tim Roth
Running Time: 110 min
BROKEN H H H H
Mark O’Rowe’s script for this brilliantly acted, properly moving if ultimately somewhat melodramatic ensemble piece is derived from a novel by Daniel Clay.
This is a bit of a surprise. You could see Broken as a more serious, more suburban variation on the Irish writer’s well-remembered work for John Crowley’s Intermission . There is the same bubble of characters. Violence breaks out unexpectedly. Recurring, comic asides – here, a pair of mischievous, barely glimpsed twins – run twisting through the interlocked stories.
Directed by Rufus Norris, best known for his stage adaptation of Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen, the film is almost entirely set in a bland English estate. The terrific opening scenes have Mr Oswald (Rory Kinnear), single father to three wayward, bullying daughters, striding across the street and beating all hell out of a neighbouring adult with learning difficulties. It turns out that one of the girls, caught with a condom, claimed
the poor fellow was having sex with her.
In another house, the naive,
kind Skunk (Eloise Laurence), a teenager with diabetes, acts as the audience’s eyes. She watches as a nice Irish teacher (Cillian Murphy) makes a mess of his relationship with the family’s au pair (Zana Marjanovic). She meets a wayward boy. Bullying continues at school.
It sounds as if too many tales are being told. But O’Rowe spins his yarns with such economy that each seems satisfactorily well developed. The actors help by enthusiastically fleshing out their characters. Tim Roth, playing Skunk’s father, has rarely been so restrained. Murphy radiates decency. Laurence (daughter of EastEnders star Larry Lamb) is staggeringly natural and assured.
The eventual problems stem not from the number of stories, but from the unlikely weight of violent convulsions that they contain. The final 15 minutes come across like the Readers Digest condensed version of every Victorian sensation novel ever published.
No matter. Broken remains a very moving, very classy slice of high-end soap opera. All actors involved can congratulate themselves on a good month’s work.