Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Broken: Parents Worry
name is Skunk, not Scout, but it is easy to understand how viewers might hear
it that way. This British coming-of-age
tale might yearn for Mockingbird comparisons,
but it is a pretty good film when considered on its own merits. Skunk will indeed observe the best and worst
of people in Rufus Norris’s Broken (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
is a conscientious single father, but there is only so much he can do to
protect his tomboy daughter. Life has
not done her excessive favors, starting with the mother who abandoned the
family shortly after her birth. However,
she gets along with her older brother relatively well and her solicitor father
is a good provider (yes, he is a lawyer, just like Atticus Finch). She seems to be maturing into a responsible
young adult, caring for her Type 1 Diabetes and starting a new term at school. However, a violent assault on Rick Buckley,
an ambiguously developmentally challenged young man living across the street,
will set off an escalating series of tragedies.
always liked Rick and his middle aged parents, but Bob Oswald’s trampy delinquent
daughters next door are a different story.
It was their false accusation of rape that precipitated the attack poor
Rick. In the annals of bad movie
neighbors, they are some of the worst.
Nonetheless, Skunk will also see examples of ennobling human behavior,
including that of Mike Kiernan, her favorite English teacher and her nanny’s
good or for ill, just about every significant event in Broken is driven by parents’ concern for their children. Even the knuckle-dragging Oswald is acting on
flawed parental instincts and has his moments of fundamental decency here and
there. Indeed, Broken excels at showing human nature at its messiest and most
complicated. Strangely though, it ends with
a rather overwrought excursion into symbolic expressionism at odds with the
rest of the film’s grounded realism.
Roth might be channeling his inner Gregory Peck, but he is still fantastic as
Archie. It is a smart, patiently
understated, and wonderfully humane performance. Avoiding most of the pitfalls young actors
fall into, Eloise Laurence is neither too cloying nor too overly obnoxious as
Skunk and her vocals on the film’s soundtrack nicely reinforce the sad
pseudo-nostalgic mood. She makes it
clear this is a bright kid, but sometimes a bit of a handful. Denis Lawson (Wedge from Star Wars) is quietly compelling as the anguished Mr. Buckley, while
Rory Kinnear humanizes the mercurial Oswald to a remarkable extent.
may not break any new cinematic ground (and the late inning stylization is
a mistake), the honest earthiness of its characters is dramatically compelling.
Likewise, Roth’s work will speak
directly to most parents, representing a marked but welcome departure from the
sort of rogues and fast talkers he often plays.
Recommended for viewers who appreciate family dramas with grit, Broken opens this Friday (7/19) in New
York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: British Cinema, Tim Roth