“The story of a young girl in North London whose life changes after witnessing a violent attack.”
Directed by: Rufus Norris Rated: 15 Running Time: 91 minutes
The demise of childhood and the end of innocence are always highly emotive subjects, especially when played out in front of your eyes by a heartbreakingly adept cast. For my second Tim Roth film of the day, we turn to Broken, a finely considered co-op between the BFI and BBC, directed by Olivier Award winning Rufus Norris, in his first project as a screen feature director.
To begin with, Norris seems born to do this and should be applauded for his apparent consummate ease at bringing these characters to a brimming, ebullient existence. The story of a young girl at a potentially catastrophic/glorious point in her fledgling life seems lifted so convincingly out of reality and so delicately shot with attention to detail that many more wisened directors can only imagine they have the talent to do, that you can easily forget as the viewer that this is not in fact in any way true.
Situated no further than school, the local mental hospital, scrapyard and home, the localized community feel and spirit Norris cajoles you with is a stir of echoes from snippets of the viewers own life, tempting wistful recollections of when their own was if not better, then certainly less demanding than the chaos they have to deal with today.
But there is also a darkness here, as Norris treats familiarity as a gift for the viewer, with windows into the lives of many of the homes on the street in which our heroine lives, laughs and cries every day. A brief sojourn through the back doors and short cuts of this very English estate reveals all of the menace, imagination, solace, loss and unspoken misery that can be found behind any door of anyone you know, if you knock at the right time of day or night.
The performances by all of the cast are simply outstanding and Norris has directed them with such aplomb that it makes you wonder just where he can possibly have drawn his inspiration for his feel and tone. Daniel Clay’s novel bursts into life in all of the people that we meet and their lives become riveting as a result of the things that are spoken and of other things that are left unsaid with purpose. The screenplay, written by a clearly inspired Mark O’Rowe absolutely fizzes in the highs and wallows in the depths of humanities triumph and weakness and nothing is wasted, or feels laboured or superfluous to a story that you wish was at least twice as long as it ended up being.
Norris has given what could be a masterclass of direction and framing here, almost reading the mind of his audience and laying just what they need in front of them, even if it isn’t what they want. This was both a joy and a terror in equal measure, easily stealing the crown so far for the best film of the year.