Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

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DVD Review – The Broken Circle Breakdown

2 min read

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, The Broken Circle Breakdown is an heart wrenching Belgian drama about the emotional fallout between parents after the loss of a child. Based on a play written by Johan Heldenbergh, the film sees Heldenbergh starring as Didier, a bango-playing bluegrass lover who falls almost immediately for Elise (Veerle Baetens), a tattoo artist who believes everything worthwhile in her life should be inked on her skin. The non-linear chronology of the film jumps between various stages in their relationship, from the time they met up until the death of their very ill daughter Maybelle (Nell Cattrysse), and the aftermath of this event.

The Broken Circle Breakdown DVDWhile you could perceive the editing of this film to be jumpy and slightly confusing, for the most part I found it a clever way to slowly reveal different aspects of Didier and Elise’s relationship, keeping an element of suspense to this otherwise all-too-real story. It is a subject matter that every parent hopes they will never have to face, and no stone goes unturned in this depiction. Backed by two faultless and devastatingly realistic performances by Heldenbergh and Baetens, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a raw, exposed look into how a relationship handles a loss such as this.

Exploring themes of death, religion and the sometimes catastrophic results of falling in love, you wouldn’t think you were in for a particularly cheery film. To be fair, there were a few tears, but for most of the movie there was humour as well, balancing the tragedy and the comedy in an appropriate mix. It was towards the end of the film that this balance seemed to fall apart, and what started out as a realistic movie with believable characters became just a little too melodramatic. The time-jumps did begin to confuse more than amuse as the film progressed, and there were times when I questioned whether these characters would react the way they did if it were happening real-life.

Even if the ending was slightly underwhelming, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a beautiful film with locations and cinematography to match. As a viewer you become deeply invested in Didier and Elise’s relationship, which makes those emotional scenes even more gut-wrenching to watch. Despite the lack of screen time for the supporting cast, the actors who played Didier’s friends and band mates breathed a warmth and energy into the film, and provided an awesome bluegrass soundtrack to boot. The music was a real highlight of the film and the scenes where Didier’s band performs are an absolute joy to watch.

It’s definitely not a film for a lighthearted Sunday afternoon, but it is one well worth watching when you feel like you can stomach it. It is poignant and devastating, and it is sure to resonate with you long after the end credits roll.