The ‘loss of childhood innocence’ motif is one that is well explored within the realms of cinema, particularly that of Britain. Shane Meadows, for example, has long used it as a primary theme of his films. From this perspective, then, it seems a somewhat well-trodden path for directorial debutant Rufus Norris to venture down. Fortunately, however, there is enough cinematic ingenuity here to make a film staple feel refreshingly original.
In a film of intertwining stories, a brutal assault by a widower, Bob (Rory Kinnear), on a troubled teen is witnessed by 11 year-old Skunk (Eloise Laurence) – the epicentre of the film. This sets in motion events that test her relationships with her father (Tim Roth) and brother (Bill Milner), as well as her teacher Mike (Cillian Murphy) and Mike’s girlfriend (Zana Marjanovic).
…there is enough cinematic ingenuity here to make a film staple feel refreshingly original.
As expected, the strong support cast of BROKEN add exactly the right touch of charm and detail to each character. Roth is brilliant as the working father, Archie, touchingly close to his children despite the limits imposed by the significance of his profession. Kinnear plays the snarling villain well, although there is an interesting level of repressed grief at the loss of his wife that is, lamentably, not explored. It is, however, the newcomer, Laurence, who upstages her vastly more experienced supporting cast with an assured performance as the precocious-yet-vulnerable Skunk. The film is at its strongest in the moments of tender, comedic interaction between Skunk and her self-appointed boyfriend, Dillon. Their relationship, shot beautifully by cinematographer Rob Hardy, is the innocent base against which the melodrama is effectively juxtaposed.
It is, however, the newcomer, Laurence, who upstages her vastly more experienced supporting cast…
As the film approaches its denouement, each character has been dragged through such a bleak melodrama that the climax feels almost inevitable. There is possibly a a few coincidences too many for some more cynical viewers, and there is a slightly contrived feeling about the eventual climax, but overall BROKEN is a strong debut from Norris and Laurence, with both making their mark.