If it's not broken... don't fix it
Film Review: Broken (15A, general release, 91 minutes)
Up until now, Rufus Norris has mainly plied his trade in the theatre, and Broken is his feature film debut.
Written by Mark O'Rowe, it's a strange, lyrical and formidably assured debut that mixes an arthouse aesthetic with elements of horror and a fondness for melodrama that sits somewhere between Charles Dickens and EastEnders.
In the end, Norris pushes his drama too far, and concludes in a bloodbath that Shakespeare might have considered excessive. But for long periods it's both funny and genuinely moving, and newcomer Eloise Laurence is absolutely outstanding in the central role.
She is Skunk, the bright and curious but chronically diabetic daughter of a divorced solicitor called Archie (Tim Roth). Archie, an unerringly decent man, is devoted to the welfare of Skunk and her older brother Jed (Bill Milner), and has hired a live-in carer called Kasia (Zana Marjanovic) to look after them. Archie seems to have feelings for Kasia, but she's involved with a histrionic Irishman called Mike (Cillian Murphy), who happens to be Skunk's schoolteacher.
Skunk has a tender friendship with an older boy called Rick (Robert Emms), who lives across the road and seems a little odd. In fact he's a kind of Boo Radley character, but when a neighbour becomes convinced that Rick impregnated one of his sharp-tongued daughters, he attacks the boy and beats him to a pulp, thereby unleashing all sorts of unforeseen consequences.
Norris' film is beautifully made and full of fine performances, especially from Roth and the brilliant Laurence.
But he and his writer introduce more problems than their 90-minute film could ever have any chance of solving, and overcook their story by descending too often into cheap shocks and melodrama.
Director: Rufus Norris Stars: Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Zana Matjanovic, Eloise Laurence