Broken explores the relationships both within and between three families living in adjacent houses in an unnamed north London suburb: depicting a picture of dead-end Britain seen through the eyes of twelve year old Skunk (Eloise Lawrence). Each of these families are struggling to respond to their own issues– whether divorce, death of a loved one, or mental illness. However, it is the conflict between these families, provoked by the troublesome Oswalds, which is the focus of the film.
It is difficult to dispute the fact that Broken is a well-made film. The cinematography is very well done and manages to subtly highlight the juxtaposition of the innocent Skunk with the violence and lies that surround her – adding comic details which are appropriate for seeing the world through the eyes of a twelve year old and help break up the often bleak tension of the narrative.
The cast are pretty faultless; each actor develops their role well, and the stereotypical nature of characters such as Mr. Oswald is a fault of the screenwriting rather than anything else. Above all, this film should be watched for newcomer Eloise Lawrence’s excellent performance as Skunk, who she portrays convincingly as kind, trusting and without agenda. Indeed, the scenes between Skunk and her ‘boyfriend’ Dillon in the countryside by a nearby scrap-yard were some of my favourites of the film, offering a kind of escapism from the tension of the central plot.
However, it is the overwhelming and, by the end, overdone drama and tension that ultimately dominate the storyline of Broken, making it very difficult to come away feeling anything but drained. The initial point of high tension, with Mr Oswald violently attacking Rick Buckley for seemingly no reason, is an effective and attention-grabbing opening to the film. However, as the narrative continues, the amount of drama and tension escalates and eventually reaches unrealistic levels. In a film that is at least on some level meant to be a realist-style examination of troubled modern British suburban life, it arguably ends in melodrama, trying to cram far too much into ninety one minutes.