Film Movement – Year 11 Film 1: Rufus Norris’ “Broken” Review and Trailer

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Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.

Yes, Murphy’s Law is in full effect in the picturesque little English cul-de-sac of Rufus NorrisBroken, one of the most unrelentingly bleak coming-of-age tales of recent memory. What starts off with a seemingly random beating slowly weaves into a grim tapestry of dysfunctional families, bullying, rape accusations, abandonment, disease, and good old-fashioned murder. There are flickers of joy to be found, but every last character in Norris’ film seems to be just biding their time until they– or someone they love– falls victim to Broken‘s world of relentless dread and casual evil. Luckily, a strong ensemble cast of both seasoned veterans and first-timers do wonders to liven up the proceedings, keeping Norris’ heavy opus from turning into a depressing slog.

Newcomer Eloise Laurence stars as Skunk, an eleven-year-old girl whose childhood world of innocence begins to tumble down around her. At school, she’s brutally bullied, and not even her kind-hearted teacher Mike (Cillian Murphy) can keep her out of harm’s way. At home, her loving dad Archie (Tim Roth) is similarly powerless to stop the increasing violence of their neighborhood from seeping into her life. Abandoned by her mother and afflicted with type-one diabetes, Skunk seemingly has all the cards stacked against her, and yet she still soldiers on, looking for friendship and affection wherever she can.

As is often the case with this particular breed of scruffy English indie, the performances are stellar across the board. Murphy’s school teacher offers up some of the actor’s most convincing dramatic work to date, with a spot-on Bristol accent to boot. Tim Roth is at his most restrained and assured as Skunk’s stoic father, in contrast to Rory Kinnear‘s monstrous next-door neighbor, who won’t be wining any Father of the Year awards anytime soon. That being said, this is Eloise Laurence’s show through and through, and the power of her debut turn is core to the film’s success. Whenever the film’s relentlessly dreary tone starts to border on self-parody, Laurence is onhand to restore that much-needed dose of humanity.

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