Broken (2 stars)


Wildly melodramatic and stereotypical issue-based drama, starring Cillian Murphy and Tim Roth

Single parent families, sexually aware teenagers, people with mental health issues; they’re all just short-fused firecrackers ready to explode in director Rufus Norris’s frustratingly issue-based drama. Funded by the BBC and the British Film Council, and adapted from a novel by Daniel Clay, Broken leaves no stereotype unturned as it attempts to delve behind the twitching curtains of the most tempestuous cul-de-sac since the demise of Channel Four’s Brookside.

Mark O’Rowe’s script features story elements familiar from Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird; Skunk (Eloise Laurence) is the socially curious daughter of a taciturn lawyer Archie (Tim Roth), and develops a friendship with a gentle neighbor Rick (Robert Emms) who has mental health issues. The intolerance shown towards Rick by next-door’s Bob (Rory Kinnear) and his intolerant brood of girls deepens Skunk’s empathy, while also making Rick a social pariah, but soon her own world is rocked when a school bullying incident leads to a false accusation of Skunk’s teacher Mike (Cillian Murphy), which Archie uses his legal training to solve.

If Broken sounds wildly melodramatic, that’s because it is; somehow every household in Skunk’s street faces life-threatening drama simultaneously, meaning that any intended social relevance gives way to absurdity. Norris has been given an A-list cast to play with, but neither Roth nor Murphy have much to go on despite their heavyweight presence, leaving newcomer Laurence to deliver a central performance better than the material deserves.

Featuring a ridiculous music score that suggests a merry-go-round out of control, Broken is a farcically overwrought drama that probably means well, but is ham-fisted in its portrayal of real-life issues; the final suggestion that people on medication are just a mood-swing from being a danger to the community consigns Norris’s dull-looking film to the lowest echelons of stigmatizing thought.

Broken Trailer (2013)


  • 2012
  • UK
  • 1h 30min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Rufus Norris
  • Written by: Daniel Clay, Mark O'Rowe
  • Cast: Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear
  • UK release: 8 March 2013

A young girl's life is changed forever when she witnesses a violent attack on a man by his neighbour, with the event carrying tragic consequences for everyone on the street.