Title: The Broken Circle Breakdown
Director: Felix van Groeningen
Starring: Johan Heldenbergh, Veerle Baetens, Nell Cattrysse
Release Date: 8th November 2013
Set in Belgium around the time of the attacks of September 11th, and shot almost completely in Flemish, the film is an excellent re-imagining of the boy meets girl story. A Belgian bluegrass musician, Didier (Heldenbergh), falls in love with a tattoo artist, Elise (Baetens), however, after the birth of their leukemic daughter, their lives change.
Flicking back and forth between moments in the lives of Didier and Elise, we see how their relationship unfolds and how the characters grow together. In this way, the film effectively tells just enough of the story to be coherent and to explore the characters while still being interesting.
The film is a powerful and touching piece that is filled with many moments of both love and strife. It’s charming and stark in its depiction of love and relationships and still, somehow, the dialogue is believable. The joyous depictions of love make you smile and the hardships they endure can bring you to tears. It’s hard to imagine growing to care for a wannabe hillbilly and a moody, religious tattoo artist, but it happens.
The soundtrack is absolutely perfect for the film. It resonates with one’s own feelings and also, more practically, helps you decipher the film’s location in time. The moments where Didier’s band is onstage playing are of particular note, pinpointing the couple’s relationship at a certain moment in time. This technique is used very creatively, and to stunning effect by director Felix van Groeningen.
The wonderfully vivid performances by the leading actors can’t receive enough credit. Although you may not agree with the characters, it is certainly not difficult to understand them. As a drama, the film is not over or under acted and it gives what feels like a very true to life insight of the events.
A combination of good writing and fine acting humanises the characters while keeping the plot entertaining. Despite this, the story tends to drag on a bit towards the last quarter. This lag in the pace does not in any sense take away from the performances, but does leave the viewer slightly impatient for more plot development.
This can be the only criticism of an otherwise outstanding and understated film. The Broken Circle Breakdown may leave you emotionally exhausted, but you will be grateful for the experience.
In a Nutshell: A wonderful and engaging drama about two parents coping with their daughter’s leukaemia and the ups and downs of their relationship.