Apparently “Broken” is ‘inspired’ by Harper Lee’s much-loved classic “To Kill A Mockingbird,” but I find “Broken” to be a better story with more well-developed characters (yes, you have found the one person in the world who isn’t floored by “To Kill A Mockingbird”- don’t stare, please, it makes me nervous.) It’s certainly darker, as Lee’s redemptive tone is replaced with unrepentant bleakness. The racial issues have been traded in, but the themes of injustice and the destruction of innocence remain.
Spirited tween ‘Skunk’ (a powerful and expressive performance by newcomer Eloise Laurence) is stuck in that tricky transition between childhood and adulthood where matters of sexuality and maturity interest her, but are not quite within her grasp. Skunk’s father, Archie (This generation’s Atticus Finch,) (Tim Roth) is an honorable man who loves his daughter with a fierce intensity but struggles to cope with her youthful antics.
When Skunk’s mentally challenged friend Rick (Robert Emms) is accused of rape and beaten by her redneck neighbor Mr. Oswald (Rory Kinnear,) Skunk is baffled just as much as Rick is- Rick has never laid a hand on Oswald’s tramp of a daughter, and treats the situation with confusion and astonishment. He is portrayed in a very fine performance by Emms (who I saw just days before as a gay superhero in “Kick-Ass 2”,) who resists the urge to overact and makes the character of Rick his own.
Tim Roth is one of my favorite actors, and he does a good job here, but the entire cast is equally worth mentioning. Eloise Laurence is adorable and charming, but also shows real acting chops as compassionate Skunk. Cillian Murphy (known for films like “Batman Begins” and “28 Days Later) plays Archie’s housekeeper’s love interest, who soon becomes the target of Oswald’s seething rage. He is flawed yet sympathetic, as are most of the characters.
I did think the myriad disasters piling up for Skunk and Rick’s families became a little bit melodramatic and hard to take. After a while it was like… really? Is there anything awful that’s NOT going to happen to these people? There also could have been more build-up in the beginning scenes, instead of revealing everything immediately.
I really liked the character of Skunk. I think the way she treats Rick says everything about her character. She acts totally like he’s a normal person and talks to him accordingly, and never thinks it’s weird that he’s a grown man and they’re friends. And her romance with local boy Dillon (George Sargeant) is appropriately chaste and really cute. She’s a sweet, strong, and hearty girl, with a keen mind and a big heart. I liked the character of Rick too. He’s a nice fellow, a little simple, and his fate saddens me.
“Broken” is a powerful film and I’m not ashamed to say I liked it better than “To Kill A Mockingbird.” So, it’s a classic. Sue me. I hope Eloise Laurence has a big career ahead of her, but she’s not the only rising star in this movie. Not many people can play the ‘mentally handicapped’ role without resorting to theatrics, and Rick is a profoundly sad and likable character. I recommend this film to drama lovers and people to like a sad, touching story.