Broken: Malone Zone film review

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An occasional film review by Peter Malone.

Peter Malone represents SIGNIS and was one of our judges for the 3rd and 4th Insight Film Festivals. A full list of Peter’s reviews can be found on the SIGNIS website.


130614 Broken


Country: UK (2012)
Production: BBC Films, Bill Kenright Films, Cuba Films, Lipsync Productions: YouTube: trailer (02.21)

Technical specifications: 142 minutes, Colour.

Cast includes: Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Eloise Laurence, Rory Kinnear,  Zana Karjanovic: IMDb

Director: Rufus Norris: IMDb;
Screenwriter: Mark O”Rowe: IMDb

Malone Zone review

Broken is a very sad film, based on a novel of the same name, with some touches of hope at the end.  All of the characters are broken in one way or other.

This is a British film located in north London, generally confined to a street with a closed circle at the end of it, confined to three adjacent houses.  In 90 minutes, we come to understand several of the characters, even when it is hard to offer them sympathy.  However, we are invited to look at them through the eyes of an 11-year-old girl, her nickname ‘Skunk’, as well as look at Skunk herself.  She is played with skill and verve by Eloise Laurence, her first film.

Initially we see Skunk chatting with Rick (Robert Emms), a young man living just over the way.  He is cleaning the car and, listening to him, we realise he is a slow-learner.  Suddenly the man next door comes out and batters Rick.  We learn he is Mr Oswald (Rory Kinnear), widowed with three daughters.  Skunk is taken aback, even more so when the police arrive and it is Rick they are taking in.

The situation is soon explained and we begin to learn about each household.

Rick had an accident, almost drowning, when he was five. He is cared for by his loving parents.

One of Oswald’s daughters (who becomes increasingly obnoxious as the film progresses) is found with a condom and says she had sex with Rick to save herself from her father’s anger.  Once again, we see him go and and bash Rick, calling him a pervert, which is why he was arrested.

Meanwhile, Skunk lives at home with her father, solicitor Archie (Tim Roth), who tries to intervene and make peace but is himself threatened by Oswald.  Archie’s wife has left him and he has an au pair, Kasia (Zana Marjanovic), to look after Skunk and her brother, Jed (Bill Milner).  Kasia has a long-time boyfriend, Mike (Cillian Murphy) who is at home there.

This scenario may seem ordinary enough, but it is the setting for many problems.  Skunk is preparing for high school (and Jed is trying to frighten her about how hard it is).  She falls foul of the smallest of the Oswald girls, who runs a protection racket in the school; she has a crass mouth, but a determination that is a combination of a young Margaret Thatcher and ‘The Firm’, a criminal gang run by the Kray twins.  She and her sister also beat up Skunk, and Mike intervenes.

Rick stays in his room, his mother trying to persuade him to come out by reminiscing about how his father saved him and how they love him.  He goes to an institution, later comes home for a weekend which is tragic.

When one of the Oswald girls has a miscarriage at a party at home, Oswald assumes the worst and beats up Mike.  Archie acts as the solicitor for the detective’s questioning.

And that is not all, quite a few more plot complications, but it gives an indication of what can happen in any suburban street. We all know people who may live in one or other of these houses.  But, this is a brief, effective slice of life which raises the question of who is to blame for what happens, who is responsible – or whether small things, quick lies, temper, betrayals, misunderstandings can lead to more tragic consequences.

Product links: Broken (UK only)

Book: Daniel Clay, Broken (2013),  Fourth Estate, film tie-in paperback

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