Film Review: The Broken Circle Breakdown

20:33, Jul 25 2014
broken circle breakdown
COUNTRY LOVIN' MUSOS: Elise and Didier build a relationship, which then breaks downs.

The Broken Circle Breakdown was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Academy Award last year. The prize was taken out Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty, which was probably a fair call, but this Belgian/Flemish gem must have pushed it awfully close.

The Broken Circle Breakdown (The title refers to the bluegrass/folk standard Can The Circle Be Unbroken, first made popular by the Carter family) is set in the present day. Didier and Elise are in hospital, anxious at the bedside of their daughter, who is deathly ill.

The film unspools back six or seven years, so that we encounter these gorgeous people as they first meet each other, and fall immediately, wildly, and joyously in love. He lives in a trailer, raises chickens, and fronts a bluegrass band. She is a tattoo artist, blessed with the gift of a golden voice. In a deft and well weighted hundred minutes, back and forth across the years, we watch as these two alternately build and tear apart their lives together.

Like the best of the American country songbook, this film goes to some dark and tragic places, but it also celebrates life and love with a rare whole-heartedness and earthiness. This is a sensual, celebratory film; one that skirts uncommonly close to melodrama, makes a couple of odd editing decisions, occasionally devolves into overt politics, but always stays just this side of utterly absorbing. With a soundtrack to die for (much of it performed by the cast), two exceptional adult leads, and from six year old Nell Cattrysse, one of the most astonishing performances from a child actor I have ever seen, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a film to be savoured.

- The Broken Circle Breakdown, M. Directed by Felix Van Groeningen


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