As a society we’re not suffering nearly as much as we think we are. Although the amount of crime committed continues to fall steadily, the fear of crime is increasing. When you see something abhorrent on the news it doesn’t suggest an endemic problem. It means that the event was rare enough to attract journalistic attention. Britain was never really broken, and however misunderstood the sentiment or the speech that spawned the phrase, hasn’t been at risk of shattering in years. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that the current conditions aren’t severely testing individual tensile strength.
Director Rufus Norris sets his début film across three houses in a modest, suburban cul-de-sac with the potential for unhappiness ever-present. Rory Kinnear is a Fathers4Justice caricature raising three feral mouth-breathers. A world-weary single father, Tim Roth, tries to raise his teenage son and nearly teenage daughter, as well as helping out the naive couple next door who are in denial about their son’s mental issues. The interactions between these three families are what form the backbone of Broken.
The film would be insufferably bleak if it weren’t for the guileless optimism of Roth’s daughter Skunk (Eloise Laurence). The film develops at the pace with which her reductive assumptions about character are destroyed by the adult world she is becoming old enough to critically assess. The use of her mentally impaired neighbour Rick for character development is dealt with reasonably tastefully, but feels unnecessary given how much else there is worth learning from the rest of the cast.
Norris’ vision is bold and the cast self-assured. You’ll almost certainly predict the ending; how soon you’ll do it will depend only on how far you feel Norris is willing to let the negativity spiral before his climatic finish. Broken is an assured but not immensely memorable look at modern life in suburban Britain.
Broken is out on DVD now