Broken – best British film

Last night I went to see Rufus Norris’ debut (award-winning, independent) film Broken – and it blew me away. But not with a spine-tinglingly thrilling plot, or mind-blowingly beautiful cinematography, it was the realism: it is totally believable.

Adapted from Daniel Clay’s acclaimed novel, of the same name, Broken follows Skunk (played, excellently, by Eloise Laurence), an 11-year-old girl living with her hardworking, but caring, solicitor father, Archie (Tim Roth) and teenage brother, on a cul-de-sac in London.

There are three houses in the enclave, each housing families with varying levels of dysfunctionality: Skunk’s mother abandoned her and her brother when they were little, one neighbour’s son suffers with schizophrenia, and another neighbour’s wife died; leaving him with three grieving, and badly-behaved, teenage daughters – and a severe anger problem.

The issues arising from the grieving family, the family dealing with mental health issues and Skunk’s own difficulties: fear of abandonment, her prime care-giver being Kasia, a Polish au pair, pre-secondary school nerves – are presented from the leading-girl’s inquisitive, caring perspective. This gives the film a lighter, dreamier surface – quite different from the grey, hopeless Britain depicted in other realist British dramas.

But there is action. There’s violence, sex (adolescent and adult), lies, illness – physical and mental – and bullying. All presented in the most honest, true-to-life manner possible.

The film made me laugh (very funny pranks), tear-up and gasp (at the atrocious bullying). But mostly I was absorbed by the spot-on observations of what it is to be an 11 year old girl, living in London, recognising your own – and other people’s – problems, but somewhat blind to the reality of how deep these troubles lie, and to the potential disasters that can arise from pushing the wrong person over the edge…

***** (five stars. High praise)

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