Director: Rufus Norris
Cast: Tim Roth, Eloise Laurence, Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear and Zana Marjanovic
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: March 6
If there’s one thing that Broken reminds you, it’s that growing up was bloody tough. Bullies, homework and bumbling clumsiness with everyone around you, it’s not something most people want to revisit. At the same time, it’s captured the joy that can only be found in being young and naive.
Skunk is an eleven-year-old diabetic living with her dad, brother and au-pair. As the summer nights get shorter, she preps for secondary school, a place—according to her brother Jed anyway—where you’re beaten up, mugged and have you hair cut, and all before first lesson. With innocence soon to disappear, she spends her final free days furnishing a hut, finding out about boys and avoiding flying bags of dog feces.
First time actor Eloise Laurence gives a staggeringly impressive debut as Skunk, as good as has been seen in recent years. Her scenes with her brother (Bill Milner), au-pair Kasia (Zana Marjanovic) and teacher Mike (Cillian Murphy) bubble with a tenderly realised, daft innocence—all mock fights and awkward questions. Every bit as vulnerable as she is pugnacious, she fearlessly pushes the film along, more than capable of holding her own against some more established stars. Leading this group is Tim Roth in a beautifully understated role as a single father juggling work and the growth of two teenagers. He’s a totemic pillar of calm and support, yet clearly struggles with being alone.
Rory Kinnear delivers a repulsive and apoplectic performance as Bob—a man whose idea of conflict resolution is broken noses and smashed plasma screens, and whose dinner consists of eating ham cold cuts on his doorstep while F-bombing the next-door neighbours. His foul mouthed, crass daughters are like younger, North London cousins of Mickey Ward in The Fighter; all heat-fried hair and caked on makeup.
Broken teeters masterfully between the sort of coming-of-age whimsy of Garth Jennings’ Son Of Rambow and the impending suburban terror more familiar with Shane Meadows and Ken Loach. Previously a theatre director, helmer Rufus Norris gives a sense of stage claustrophobia with most major plot points unfolding in the cul-de-sac separating the three sets of neighbors. Following on a collaboration with Norris on Dr Dee: An English Opera, Damon Albarn contributes to the soundtrack, working with others under the moniker Electric Wave Bureau. Their music zig-zags and morphs throughout; as one moment evokes Calexico-esque accordion groans, the next scene bubbles with effervescent twee.
Mark O’ Rowe, Intermission and Perrier’s Bounty writer, delivers a tight, succinct script, brimming equally with humour, warmth and unease. No scene is wasted and a technique of showing a brief brutal aftermath before revisiting the full act is terrifically unsettling. There may not be a lot in Broken that hasn’t been said before, yet at the same time, what it orates, it does exceptionally affectingly.