Broken is a stylish, gripping, flawed and enthralling tale of a young girl's loss of innocence in the modern, nefarious, society setting of a claustrophobic cul-de-sac.
The first act begins as a twisted 21st century take on To Kill A Mockingbird. 12 year old Skunk (Eloise Laurence) is the self-assured, caring, diabetic sister of Jed (Bill Milner), daughter of lawyer Archie, and friend of the nomadic Dillon (George Sargeant). Their standard suburbia is dramatically shattered by a thoughtless lie and an act of violence which triggers unforeseen repercussions, and hits fast forward on growing up. As the tale continues, the drama heightens, slipping slightly into melodrama, but with such a fierce, palpable tension that the release is perfectly timed for the closing credits.Eloise Laurence is a marvel; utterly captivating and thoroughly accomplished in displaying nuanced, conflicting emotions within a single shot. She is completely convincing as an inquisitive, struggling early teen, who draws us into her world and point of view. We might be guilty of taking for granted that the rest of the cast would deliver, but Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs), Cillian Murphy (Inception, The Wind That Shakes the Barley), Rory Kinnear (Skyfall) and basically the entire cast are excellent. In particular the relationship between Skunk and her father was truthfully and tenderly portrayed by Laurence and Roth beyond possible improvement.
Where the film truly triumphed was when it tipped over from being just another gritty, London drama into some wonderful side-stories and set piece scenes that engaged and intrigued. A side adventure with Skunk and Dillon is beautifully observed - in a manner almost of Moonrise Kingdom - but once again fully hinged on the young cast for its success. Skunk's extraordinarily familiar nagging of her Dad for a new phone, and an odd, quiet little scene in a hospital corridor are two sequences that stick in my mind for adding much needed moments of light relief in an otherwise tough watch.Norris fuses style and substance excellently - his flair never detracts from the drama, and some shots are truly stunning. The soundtrack was a huge asset to the film, with track selection very well judged.
Though the film does descend into hyperbole and the incident sheet is one that even the most seasoned of soaps would be proud of, Broken is a fascinating and thrilling watch. It often worked best when it was at its most still and uneventful, but for the cast performances alone the film is worth catching. Rufus Norris in his directorial debut has already shown us that he will be one to watch, as will Eloise Laurence, if she decides to stick with acting - apparently she's undecided.