Broken (UK 2012) by Rufus Norris

Broken starts with a violent assault. Mr. Oswald, father of three daughters, who has been told by one of them that Ricky, a dreamy somehow strange teenager from across the street raped her, takes off his shirt and hits the boy badly. “Skunk” Cunningham, an eleven-year-old diabetic girl is witness to the scene and that’s probably the moment where the title starts making sense: The innocence and the peacefulness of her childhood is “broken”.

The film is inspired by a novel with the same title written by Daniel Clay, which was apparently partly inspired by the great American classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (1960). Set in North London in a middle class neighbourdhood it has little in common with the story of the trial of an afro-american man seen through the eyes of a little girl, who (if my memory is correct) adores her lawyer of a father. “Skunk’s” father in the film is called “Archie” (Tim Roth) and these names might be drawn from the American novel. He is certainly a lot like the father described by Harper Lee: A serious, strict man, someone to look up to. Left by his wife “for an accountant” he employs a polish nanny, called Kasia, who has a relationship with Skunk’s teacher, Mike Kiernan (Cillian Murphy).

I appreciated the mood of the film. Some scenes reminded me of films like «Amélie» (F 2001) or «Good Bye, Lenin!» (D 2003) because of their bright colours and the flashes of happy memories. The locations are reduced to the dead end where the three neighbours have their houses and an openair junk yard, where the kids hang out. There they can be just the way they want to be and the pressure of school etc. is forgotten.

The initial violence will spark a chain of other violences and the film end quite tragically. I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, which to me is a bit too brutal. Especially Ricky’s character goes through a strong metamorphosis which seems very cliché and a bit unrealistic. At least you would never think he could change that much, when you first see him washing a car like a normal boy and then getting almost hit to death by a neighbour.

The film received the Golden Eye Award at 2012’s Zurich Film Festival and is certainly worth watching!

Eloise Laurenc as “Skunk” or “Emily”

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