I’ve tried to get more independent/arthouse/foreign film into my diet the last year. I used to consume a lot more of everything, but then I went to a Film Studies graduate program that overprivileged art film and kinda hit us over the head with it. By the time I graduated, I only wanted to watch summer blockbusters and grossout comedies — my brain needed to take a break from thinking about how Taiwanese films were addressing the public sphere, or how Latin American cinema was creating its female subject.
A turning point for me personally was the 2011 Norwegian thriller Headhunters. I thought that film was really crisp and exciting, and it was like a cold glass of water in my face to remind me that there were compelling stories and ideas out there that I had been ignoring with my dum-dum regressive tendencies. How had I reached a point where I assumed “foreign cinema” equaled “plotless 5-hour meditation enacted through Serbian avant-garde dance tropes”? Anyway, that spurred me to start seeking out some of the low hanging fruit that was readily available to watch on Netflix and the like, and I was able to start a better diet of subtitles and non-superheroes. I’m saying all this because that’s basically how this film was in my queue — I was catching up to some older films, and had been putting this one off for no good reason.
Well, a little bit of an okay reason, perhaps. This film is sort of a reimagining of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in contemporary North London, and I think I had read somewhere that it was a bit intense. Beyond that, I didn’t really know what to expect. Well…it is intense, for sure. Much moreso than “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Broken basically gives you clear warning of the storms ahead, early and throughout the film — very early on there’s a rape accusation and beating that blurs together some of the Boo Radley and Ewell family storylines in a way that foreshadows much of the film’s final act, you can’t say there’s any surprises. What I wasn’t prepared for was how fantastic all the kids were in the film — all the performances feel so genuine and true, that I got way overinvested in their characters. So by the time that final act starts bringing destruction down upon that North London neighborhood, I literally sat watching with my mouth agape for 20 minutes. I don’t have much else to say about it other than I loved all the quiet moments of the film — kids playing, experimenting, and dancing their way through a complicated adult world of broken marriages, sexual awakening, mental illness and working class family life. I’d recommend this one to anyone who doesn’t mind a few body shots being thrown to make it gritty and sad!