The Broken Circle Breakdown


If you tire of the steady flow of blockbusters, big budget nonsense and misjudged sequels that stream unchecked into the cinema, there is no point complaining — Hollywood has (apart from a brief period in the 70’s) always been about making a fast buck. Instead, try expanding your horizons and head over to the art house, and you might just find the challenging and original movie making you crave. A good place to start is ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’

‘Broken Circle Breakdown’ is about Didier and Elise, a hip young-ish couple, and how they cope with the death of their daughter from cancer. Not the jolliest of stories you might think and on the whole you would be right, though there are many funny and joyous moments to be had. Anyway, without beating about the bush, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a work of art.

The main thrust of which, is really how we cope with death of family, friends and ultimately our own impending doom, when the idea of God and the afterlife is removed. It raises questions and for me even answers questions on the morality of raising children in a religious or atheist manner. How do we answer those difficult questions about life that the little bastards keep asking…and asking…and asking?

But, this isn’t The ‘Matrix Reloaded’ whose attempts at philosophy were too direct and ham-fisted to take seriously. The Broken Circle Breakdown probes its subject through the conversations and arguments of a normal (though distinctly bohemian) couple as they go through bereavement. Where Didier is a man of impassioned reason, Elise’s is a more complex and pragmatic outlook, designed to just take the pain away and together, they form an interesting Venn diagram of traditional gender psychologies.

All this stuff is intertwined with performances from the blue grass band Didier and Elise front together. You might be forgiven for thinking that these musical segments are frivolous or used to provide an element of tension relief from the more upsetting sequences and in some moments they do serve this purpose. More than that however, they are absolutely integral to the maintenance of the sophisticated but extremely delicate structure of the film, adding a stylish punctuation without which ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’ would be very hard to follow.

The more I think about ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’ the more I appreciate just how good it is. In addition to the bravura music, the refined plot structure, the heart wrenching performances from the cast and some brilliant writing, all contribute to a harrowing and unrelenting piece about the human condition. Even when I think of a criticism, the film stands up for itself and answers me back intelligently, proving the veracity of the filmmaker’s decisions. Which, should be glaringly obvious when I care to remember, it made me cry three times.

This is how a film should be made, art (and I am sorry movies are an art form whether you like or not) is not just about an idea or a concept, it is about the communication of that idea in the best way possible and the best way possible is to let the artists do what they know how to do. Let the actors act, let the director direct and the editor edit. Above all stay true to the original bit of writing that excited you in the first place, don’t dilute it by committee and let the writer write. Not that I’m biased or anything.

The Broken Circle Breakdown is in UK cinemas from the 18th October