The story revolves around three families who occupy a cul-de-sac that could be Anywhere In England. In one house we have the young 11 year-old diabetic Skunk (Eloise Laurence) who lives with her brother Jed (Bill Milner) and her stepmom Kasia (Zana Marjanovic), who is dating Mike (Murphy). But stopping by most evenings is Archie (Roth), who maintains a close relationship with his ex, Kasia. Why this familial relationship needs to be this complicated is not quite clear. To the family's right are the Buckleys (Clare Burt and Denis Lawson) who care for their mentally challenged son Rick (Robert Emms). Meanwhile to the left are the white trash Oswalds, led by the violent head of the household (Kinnear), who is still reeling from the death of his wife as he cares for Sunrise, Saskia and the promiscuous Susan, his three unruly daughters. And in case you haven't guessed, Somehow All Their Lives Will Become Connected. Sigh.
As you might guess, there is a lot that happens in this film, but none it works particularly well. Tonally, the film is all over the place, ranging from heavy drama to broad comedy, and while that in theory could work in the hands of the right director, Norris doesn't have the nuance or subtlety to pull it off. When the film calls for Serious Moments, the actors all pitch their performances to the people in the back of the theater, with yelling being the calling card for drama. Thus, when the movie shifts to lighter scenes, the transition is jarring, oftentimes with scenes feeling like they were pulled out of a different movie entirely. But worst of all, this is exactly the kind of movie where you can ballpark what happens to everybody by the end. But that doesn't mean there aren't a few surprises, even if they feel cheap and manipulative.
If there's any silver lining to "Broken," it's the performance of Laurence, who shines and delivers both laughs and heartache in the film. She's a young actress who already shows a tremendously winning presence and personality in front of the camera, and she brings much needed life to a movie that is largely missing it. As for the rest of the cast, they are mostly wasted in one-dimensional roles that don't provide much growth. "Broken" simply can't get it together on any level, delivering a tedious drama, that for all the characters and over-emoting, doesn't have much to say. [D]
"Broken" opened the Critic's Week sidebar of the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.