Film review: Broken (15)
IN A NUTSHELL
Newcomer Eloise Laurence gives a sunny, stunning performance in Rufus Norris's overcrowded story of suburban strife.
The adolescent world of tomboy Skunk is beautifully realised in Rufus Norris's otherwise wearying merry-go-round of suburban strife.
The feuds, the fears, the fumblings and the giggles come brilliantly alive amid sun-silvered grass and honeyed nostalgia. Although contemporary, it feels like the summer of 1976 thanks to Rob Hardy's glowing cinematography.
Skunk is captured with winning zest by a newcomer Eloise Laurence, a performance made all the more extraordinary when set against the cast she overshadows - Tim Roth as her gentle father Archie, Cillian Murphy as teacher Mike, Rory Kinnear as her violent neighbour Mr Oswald, played in jittery Yosser Hughes mould.
When diabetic Skunk gains a friend Jed, in the diffident sphere of after-school flirtation, the film feels at home. In contrast, the cycle of destruction that intrudes upon her world, and the film, is so contrived and inauthentic that her seething cul-de-sac would pass comfortably for Brookside Close.
The three houses host their own nightmares - the son who retreats to violent paranoia when he is falsely accused of rape. Oswald's own bloody brutality visited back upon him. Archie's relationship woes.
That would be sufficient, thank you. But the film concerns itself with the intersections, the moments when their Venn diagrams of disaster overlap, ramping up drama beyond tenability.
So by the time Skunk's own life is imperilled, and Norris's creeping air of doom finds its destination, exhaustion, not sympathy, is the only fitting response. Safer to retreat to numbness than invest in yet another calamitous, implausible trauma that could go either way.
There is much to admire in this small, overcrowded film but it is better to admire it from afar.