Boo Radley Came Out (Film Review: “Broken”)

If there had to be a cinematic adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird, thankfully it’s the lyrical and gut-wrenching Broken. I urge you to resist your reluctance and let this one in.

SnapShot Plot

In a startlingly fine breakout performance, newcomer Eloise Laurence carries the entire film as an adolescent girl – nicknamed Skunk –  in a working-class suburban English neighborhood. She and her older brother are being raised by their single father, Archie (the Atticus figure), who is an attorney, and a live-in nanny named Kasia. Theirs is a loving home, as opposed to the family living next door, a sour and dysfunctional group of sisters and their recently widowed father who’s a ticking time bomb of anger and rage, prone to sudden outbursts of extreme violence (remember Bob Ewell?) The Boo Radley presence is Rick, the gentle boy across the street, developmentally impaired yet harmless and seemingly happy, well cared for by his doting parents. There’s a particular transformation which takes place – in my opinion – around the character of Rick which gave the film an even deeper meaning, so pay close attention.

Skunk is at home in her world, and her natural buoyancy and kindness are allowing her to hold onto her childhood innocence perhaps a bit longer than she should. She’s bewildered by the adults around her with their complex relationships, and even more bewildered by the behaviour of her peers who seem to have left her behind in their pursuit of adult games. But at her core she’s unfazed, as long as she has her father’s love and respect enveloping her like a protective embrace. So when the tone of the film quickly shifts from a lyrical playfulness to something violent and menacing, we can see that beneath the surface, Skunk’s world is a treacherous place where even the most rose-colored glasses won’t tint the truth.


 Don’t be scared, don’t be scared. I just want your goodness.

Parting Shot

Adapted from the novel by Daniel Clay (which was an experimental homage to the literary masterpiece which in turn became the cinematic masterpiece that was To Kill A Mockingbird) Broken could easily have perished a fool’s death in its comparisons to the original. I doubt I’m only speaking for myself when I say that To Kill A Mockingbird is so loved a film that it has ascended to a kind of sacrosanct place in the annals of American cinema. In fact, for the first several scenes in Broken I had to scold myself against making harsh comparisons – in deference & loyalty to the reputation of Mockingbird – and to accept this film on its own merits. Good move, I’d say.

Of course the reason this film works is because  – unlike a flat-out remake, which would feel unholy – this film merely took its inspiration from Mockingbird and then went on to reinvent those characters and themes which have become so entrenched in our cultural imagination as to make them almost archetypal. Tim Roth, who did such a believable job portraying Archie, has said of Broken, it’s an “adult children’s tale”. Indeed.

Production Sidebar: Not only does Eloise Laurence carry the entire film on her slender shoulders, she also sings both songs featured on the soundtrack. I’m keeping my eye on this rising talent from ‘across the pond’ .

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1 Comment

  • Frank Cangelosi says:

    Hi Norma – looks like a good one. All those film award nominations in the trailer (especially Cannes) make me concerned 😉

    Happy Thanksgiving weekend to you, Mario, and family/friends!

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