By Don Simpson | November 9, 2013
Director: Rufus Norris
Writers: Mark O’Rowe (screenplay), Daniel Clay (novel)
Starring: Eloise Laurence, Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Zana Marjanovic, Lily James, Robert Emms, Bill Milner, Rory Kinnear, Denis Lawson, Lino Facioli, Nell Tiger Free, George Sergeant, Rory Girvan, Clare Burt, Rosalie Kosky-Hensman, Martha Bryant, Faye Daveney, Lilly Pebbles James, Michael Fernandes-Pendse, Lukas Fernandes-Pendse, Charlie Booty, Andrew Maud
As 11 year-old Skunk (Eloise Laurence) approaches adolescence, she also seems to approach a higher level of awareness. While the world around her may still seem like a playground, Skunk begins to notice the violent and hateful underbelly of society. Everyone has their faults and blemishes — Skunk, for one, has type 1 Diabetes — and life is certainly not filled with rainbows and unicorns. Take the microcosm of the suburban London cul-de-sac where she lives with her father, Archie (Tim Roth), for example. Across the street, Mr. Oswald (Rory Kinnear) has been left to raise his three daughters on his own, thus Mr. Oswald has become a violent beast who flies off the handle at the drop of a hat, such as when one of his daughters claims that Rick (Robert Emms) — a socially-troubled young man who still lives with his parents — raped her. Mr. Oswald pummels poor Rick to nearly an inch from death, right in front of Skunk. The imperfections of the world quickly unspool from there. The police arrest Rick for suspected rape, rather than Mr. Oswald for aggravated assault. When Rick returns home, his psyche is so destroyed that he sequesters himself in his bedroom until he goes crazy. Skunk also witnesses the ebb and flow of relationships and the emotional aftermaths left in the wake; she even rides the emotional rollercoaster of her own first crushes. You might say that Skunk experiences a few too many things within the abbreviated timespan of this film, but each situation is confronted with such raw emotional honesty that those occasional heavy-handed melodramatic devices can easily be forgiven and forgotten.
Despite a few overly-dramatic flourishes, Broken fits right into the dank and dour kitchen sink of British realism. If it was not for experiencing this world through the eyes of a naive 11-year-old girl, the horrors of Broken might be impossible to stomach; the perpetual threat of pedophilia alone is enough to make one’s skin crawl. Serving as a contemporary update to Scout from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Skunk offsets the evils of the world with her own inherent innocence. As a pre-adolescent, Skunk brings an outsider’s perspective to the adult narrative; so much of what she sees and experiences may make perfect sense to adult audiences, but not to her. Instead, Skunk just sees the stupidity and ignorance of people who are too caught up in their own shite to notice (or care) what affects their actions may have on others.
So, sure you might complain that Broken tries a bit too hard to tug at your heartstrings, but maybe you are just embarrassed that a fictional film is able to make your eyes well up with tears. Even if you are afraid of experiencing a bit of moistness around your eyes, you at least need to see Broken for Eloise Laurence’s noteworthy acting debut.