‘Must see’ movie : Broken

This is something special. Broken is powerful stuff and one of the most engaging dramas you’ll see this year

Skunk (Eloise Laurence) is a twelve-year-old with type one diabetes living in a suburban cul-de-sac with her dad Archie (Tim Roth), a sad, sweet-natured solicitor whose wife abandoned them; her wannabe-cool brother Jed (Bill Milner); and the family au pair, Kasia (Zana Marjanovic). Friendly and direct, Skunk has a special connection with their neighbours’ slow-witted twentysomething son, Rick (Robert Emms)

In the first of several time-shuffling scenes, Skunk witnesses Rick being savagely beaten by  neighbourhood bad egg Bob Oswald (Rory Kinnear), a hotheaded widower raising three thuggish teenage daughters. We subsequently learn that one of his daughters, Susan (Rosalie Kosky-Hensman), was caught with a condom and impulsively suggested that Rick had raped her. While the charges are quickly dropped when it emerges Susan was lying, Rick’s fragile stability has snapped, causing him to retreat into isolation. A later episode with his caring parents (Denis Lawson, Clare Burt) causes him to be institutionalized for treatment

Much of the action follows familiar rite-of-passage paths. Skunk tags along with her brother around the neighbourhood as he fills her with dread about the impending horrors of big school. She embarks on a timid flirtation with a local boy, Dillon (George Sargeant), hanging out in an abandoned trailer near a breakers yard. She also endures the bullying of the youngest Oswald girl, a terror inappropriately named Sunshine (Martha Bryant). Mostly she observes with perplexity the negotiations of adult life around her. This includes the breakdown of the relationship between Kasia and commitment-shy schoolteacher Mike (Cillian Murphy), on whom Skunk has a crush, and the transfer of Kasia’s affections to her father

Violence erupts again when promiscuous Susan really does become pregnant and once more points the finger at a guiltless target

It’s not all doom and gloom, though: there’s a running gag with airborne bags of poo, a black kid dances alone in the school car park for some reason and Skunk’s reluctance to succumb to the ‘charms’ of Dillon has to be the cutest romance this year

Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy, are their dependable selves but it’s the younger cast - the three ASBOs-in-waiting Oswald teens (Rosalie Kosky-Hensman, Martha Bryant and Faye Daveney) and the unhinged Emms – that steal the show. As good as they are, however, they’re put in the shade by newcomer Laurence; her goofy smile is somewhere between childhood innocence and the impending ugliness of maturity

Cinematographer Rob Hardy finds odd poetry in the ordinariness of the settings, but the chief tonal assist comes from the beguiling score, from Britpop eminence Damon Albarn’s Electric Wave Bureau, which shifts as required between melancholy and whimsical moods

 Broken likes to peel the onion. Rory Kinnear’s approach might be ‘fists first, ask questions later’ but there are layers to his struggling dad and everyone else - not everyone is as bad or as together as they make out. There might be more going on in this street than in a season of Brookside but writer Mark O’Rowe (Intermission), adapting Daniel Clay’s novel, is exploring the Babel/Inarritu theme of globalisation, trimming it back to a more manageable and believable scale like a neighbourhood cul-de-sac. Regardless of what you might make of your father or brother or ‘that lot’ across the road, we’re all in this together

Take a chance, go see this. You won’t regret it

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