Her summer holidays have just begun and 11 year old Skunk (Eloise Laurence) - pretty cool and wise beyond her years - is looking forward to lazy days in her North London cul-de-sac. Her lawyer father (Tim Roth) adores her but is perpetually busy, her brother is a pesky older teen and their au pair Kasia (Zana Marjanovic) is a delightful accomplice - especially as Kasia has a dreamboat boyfriend, Mike (Cillian Murphy) ... who also happens to be Skunk's teacher. But their idyll soon has a dark shadow cast over it - and them - and Skunk's innocence begins to be corroded. Her home, her neighbourhood, her school become treacherous environments where the happy certainties of childhood give way to a complex, seemingly broken world. Skunk seeks solace in the unspoken friendship with her sweet but off kilter neighbour, Rick (Robert Emms).
Review by Louise Keller:
It is through the eyes of an impressionable 11 year old girl that we witness the unravelling of lives in this arresting and moving film that explores life's many facets, as issues of discrimination, bullying, sexual promiscuity and belonging are canvassed. Everyone has a problem in the little cul-de-sac in North London, where Skunk (Eloise Laurence) lives. The worst part about it is that everyone's problem is magnified as it impacts on someone else. Acclaimed theatre director Rufus Norris has taken the various story strands of Mark O'Rowe's proficient adaptation of Daniel Clay's novel and plaited them into an emotional tour de force.
As the film begins, we immediately understand the dysfunctional nature of three of the households, whose homes are in close proximity. Skunk is warm and outgoing and eager to befriend Rick (Robert Emms, excellent) the simpleton, who is an easy target. Next door three out-of-control sisters taunt him, while their widower father (Rory Kinnear) is unable to control his violent streak. As for Skunk's life, while there are moments of normality as she anticipates the start of high school, there is an innate insecurity prompted by the void created when her mother left.
Tim Roth is a grounding force as Skunk's solicitor father Archie, to whom everyone comes for help at various times. Skunk's reassurance comes from the dream Archie repeatedly tells her - from the time when she was born. Also solid is Cillian Murphy as Skunk's sympathetic teacher and boyfriend to the au-pair Kasia (Zana Marjanovic). We are taken into all the characters' lives, while a nearby metal scrapheap where a giant crane crushes useless cars and other large metal objects, is a constant reminder of the impacting devastatingly destructive nature that is surrounding them.
All the performances are strong and 11 year old Laurence gives a debut performance that is reminiscent of that of Mary Badham as Scout, in To Kill A Mockingbird. She is extraordinary. I also like the way that Norris presents the exposition outcome before taking us back in time to see how things evolved. The build up to the climactic scene is powerful indeed, offering a shattering emotional experience that brings together all the elements, leaving us well satisfied - and profoundly moved.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A story of crumbling innocence and the several failures of character that have dreadful, destructive consequences, Broken barely escapes the despair label as debuting filmmaker Rufus Norris explores the powerful tools of cinema. Images are used to convey moods, and his camera gives us the points of view that make the most dramatic impact.
The adaptation from the novel is excellent, a fine example of how character and place can be sculpted from prose. Eloise Laurence makes a compelling debut as the 11 year old Skunk, a pretty young girl whose freshness and smarts are challenged as a series of rash judgements by people around her - some in physical, some in emotional proximity. It's not just adults, either, and it's not the usual suspects.
Cillian Murphy is outstanding as the young teacher Mike, another casualty of emotional turmoil. And it's not his affair with Kasia (Zana Marjanovic, wonderful) Skunk's live-in nanny (after her mother went off with an accountant from Birmingham) that is the problem.
Tim Roth, in his first British film in two decades, makes a likeable and restrained character out of Skunk's loving lawyer father. Intruding into this relatively stable world are outsiders whose damaging actions churn up the sea of relative calm. The story paints their neighbouring family as the source of the misery, with a variety of actions, lies and acts of violence - not least against another neighbour, the mentally frail young Rick (Robert Emms, heartbreaking).
Skunk's relationship are all tested, some shattered, and her very life is in danger. It's all powerful material and Norris shows that theatre is just as good a training ground for serious, grown up drama as film school.
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CAST: Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Eloise Laurence, Lily James, Bill Milner, Rory Kinnear, Lino Facioli, Denis Lawson, Zana Marjanovic, Robert Emms, Clare Burt
PRODUCER: Tally Garner, Bill Kenwright, Dicie Linder, Nick Marston
DIRECTOR: Rufus Norris
SCRIPT: Mark O'Rowe (novel by Daniel Clay)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rob Hardy
EDITOR: Victoria Boydell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kave Quinn
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Curious
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 16, 2013