Broken is a riveting drama, applying a subjective microscope to a petri dish of damaged souls as their proximity triggers a series of volatile reactions. When misunderstanding results in a violent outburst, the inhabitants of a North London cul-de-sac begin to clash together, and young Skunk (newcomer Eloise Laurence), must attempt to navigate through it.
Director Rufus Norris uses Skunk’s quirky purity as the filter through which we experience this drab, grey suburbia. There’s not a straight narrative line, Norris detaches different perspectives, especially in the significant moments of the story, to see the each of the characters from each of the house-holds uniquely frame each situation.
Screenwriter Mark O’Rowe etches really vivid and authentic characters from writer Daniel Clay’s novel that are categorically unglamorous. The Oswald family for example, with dad Bob played by Rory Kinnear, is without a maternal figure. And Bob’s unwavering protective impulse surrounding anything to do with his three daughters manifests itself in vicious nihilistic violence. Ultimately Broken’s thesis is that the ideal of a ‘nuclear family,’ is irreparable. Each of the parental figures in the film blindly protect their family, without the consideration for how they’re being manipulated or how their ‘ideal’ image of their children muddies the reality of who they are. Norris and O’Rowe posit the audience in the blind spots that surround and separate these characters.
Laurence is excellent as Skunk., the beating heart of Broken that positively influences all of the characters in this subhuman suburbia of malicious ignorance and violence. Tim Roth’s Archie, Skunks psychologist father, demonstrates a quiet tenderness with his daughter and emotional distance that keeps him objective. It harks back to his Reservoir Dogs breakout role that required complete immersion into the situation, instead of the imposition of his more recent catalogue of work. In his recent work like Arbitrage (or on T.V’s Lie to Me) he’s required to chew scenery and consistently take everything up to ‘11,’ which is not his forte. Cillian Murphy plays the charming Mike Kiernan, local school-teacher and boyfriend of Skunk’s caretaker. For a guy more accustomed to creepy, manipulative characters (Red Eye, The Dark Knight Trilogy), it’s a pleasure to see him attempting to apply some civility and courtesy to this unruly situation.
Broken takes a toxic suburbia and tenderly examines the fallout.
and a half
Directed by: Rufus Norris
Written by: Mark O’Rowe (based on the novel by Daniel Clay)
Starring: Eloise Laurence, Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Lily James,