A knock-out performance from newcomer Eloise Laurence lifts this British social realist drama.
Were it not for the discovery of a bright new talent, Broken might have gone down as an assured yet forgettable look at modern life in suburban Britain. As it stands, this bittersweet coming-of-ager is elevated by Eloise Laurence's knock-out performance as a diabetic 11-year-old who learns some tough life lessons as her innocence fades over the course of a long and traumatic summer.
She plays Skunk, an infectiously cheery tomboy who lives in a soapy cul-de-sac with her father Archie (an ever-reliable Tim Roth), older brother Jed (Bill Milner) and au pair Kasia (Zana Marjanovic). Skunk's sunny worldview is shattered one day when simple-minded neighbourhood pal Rick (Robert Emms) is hospitalised by thuggish neighbour-from-hell Mr Oswald (Rory Kinnear), after being falsely accused of raping his chavette daughter.
Oswald and his harem of foul-mouthed sprogs are gross working-class caricatures, but to his credit first-time director Rufus Norris is careful to show that dysfunctionality lives behind every door on this outwardly placid estate. So too emotional turmoil – newly divorced Archie struggles to hide his feelings for Kasia, who's in a rocky relationship with Skunk's favourite schoolteacher (Cillian Murphy), Rick's parents fret over what to do with their unstable son, while Skunk finds herself the target of bullies upon the start of a new term.
The point is that every family has its issues, no matter how tight-knit or open they are. It's a tune you'll have likely heard a thousand times before, but by keeping each character in constant orbit around his young lead Norris ensures his film is always engaging. Though it could do with being less melodramatic, this is stirring stuff from a director who's well worth keeping an eye on.
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Picked up the Best Film award at the 2012 BIFAs.
Miserablist melodrama sparked into life by a sensational turn from newcomer Eloise Laurence.
A promising debut from a first-time director, but Laurence is the real find here.