4 stars
One small lie sets off a chain of events that will irrevocably change the lives of everyone living in a quiet, nondescript London cul-de-sac. 'Skunk' (Eloise Laurence) is a bright young girl around whom events spiral when her white-trash school mate accuses their mentally unbalanced neighbour of molestation. He didn't, but cops a beating from the girl's violent father anyway. This simple action trips a series of events which lead quickly and effectively to the kind of distress that leads the nightly news.

Therein the spark of this startling debut from Rufus Norris. Adapted from Daniel Clay's novel, Broken seeks to entwine suburban horror with coming of age, no easy task, but one which Norris achieves with both dexterity and artistry. Here's a film which distils the cause and effect of a melodramatic, often lurid story, and contextualises it within an everyday suburban sheen. It's the background for tomorrow's headline.

As those around Skunk are changed by the far-reaching events next door – notably her teacher (Cillian Murphy), brother (Bill Milner) and father (Tim Roth) – we are witness to the girl's determination to chart a straight course, one that tentatively embraces first love and goes on to teach adults a thing or two about adulthood.

Shot with an eloquent, poetic style that recalls Cate Shortland's Somersault by way of TV's Skins, Norris leans on metaphor and Skunk's tween-spirit to punctuate the narrative. There's more than a cue from To Kill A Mockingbird (lawyer father, brother Jed, beau Dillon) as he contemporises the story of a young girl going into bat for a misunderstood neighbour.

In Laurence, Norris has found a natural, her performance is effortlessly engaging and anchors the film while Roth, Murphy, Milner and Robert Emms as the tragic neighbour round out an impressive cast. In spite of its dark core, Broken is a beautiful, compelling and surprisingly touching film.


Previewed at Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, Sydney, on Friday, 26 April 2013

3 stars
Rufus Norris’s first feature Broken, is an adaptation of Daniel Cray’s novel of the same name. The drama is set in a cul-de-sac in suburban North London, where the neighbours are as fractured as the society they live in; for this is Britain, where, according to George Orwell, “a generation of the unteachable is hanging upon us like a necklace of corpses.” How well this is exemplified in this gritty, worthy independent film.

In her acting debut, Eloise Laurence plays Skunk, an 11 year-old girl whose simple friend, Rick (Robert Emms – Anonymous / War Horse) is accused of getting their neighbour’s feral daughter Sunrise (Martha Bryant - Marchlands), pregnant. All hell breaks loose when the girl’s father Bob (Rory Kinnear- Skyfall / The Hollow Crown) goes ‘postal’ and gives the young lad a beating which puts him in hospital and eventually into psychiatric care. Skunk’s lawyer father, Archie (Tim Roth – Arbitrage / Pulp Fiction), still mourning the death of his wife, tries to keep a lid on the unravelling drama as the situation gets out of control. In the meantime, Skunk’s adult friend Mike Kiernan (Cillian Murphy Inception / The Wind That Shakes The Barley), becomes her teacher and is caught up in the family drama in more ways than one, as he is in a relationship with Skunk’s au-pair, Kasia (Zana Marjanovic – Transfer / Snow).

This is a complex tale where everyone is carrying a pile of baggage and no-one is spared. The atmosphere is as volatile as the English economy and it takes reason and fortitude for the characters to sort out their lives and try to co-exist. In many ways, the title is a metaphor for the state of not only British society, but Western society as a whole. This at times over-blown drama is brilliantly executed by all the actors, particularly Laurence, who is a revelation, and Roth, who is perfect as the downcast parent. If you are looking for a story that encompasses a range of genuine human emotions, then this is worth the experience. Broken takes you over to the dark side of life, but a glimmer of hope remains.


Previewed at Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, Sydney, on Friday, 26 April 2013

Stacks Image 3591

Tim Roth
Eloise Laurence
Cillian Murphy
Robert Emms

Rufus Norris

Mark O’Rowe



91 minutes

May 16, 2013
Broken (2012) on IMDb
Stacks Image 56