The Broken Circle Breakdown (4 stars)

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Felix Van Groeningen's visual feast of a film shows all the colours of love

Like a kaleidoscope of human experience shifting from images of joy to those of sorrow, The Broken Circle Breakdown dazzles as it draws you in. It's a poetic, sometimes devastating tale of love and loss set to a soundtrack of Belgian bluegrass. On paper it sounds quite the curio but it's a story told and performed with as much sincerity as eccentricity and exuberance.

The fourth feature from Felix Van Groeningen charts the romance of tattoo artist Elise (Veerle Baetens) and America-loving musician Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) as they go from enamoured lovers, to creative partners to – when Elise gives birth to Maybelle – besotted parents. By emphasising the quirks of this endearingly unusual pair Van Groeningen shows all the colours of love, elevating an ordinary courtship to a thing of extraordinary beauty, pitching reason against religion, raging with the couple against life's injustices and jumping back and forth in time to moving effect.

Van Groeningen and co-writer Carl Joos have adapted the film from a play by Heldenbergh (and Mieke Dobbels) but it's so boldly cinematic you can hardly tell. It's also a film that skilfully harnesses the potency of song: Didier describes bluegrass as 'country as its most pure' and we see its romantic, playful, mournful and rejuvenating capabilities. Baetens (recently seen in TV's The White Queen) and Heldenbergh have considerable chemistry and credibility as a couple and, individually, show themselves to be both sensitive and fearless performers.

The Broken Circle Breakdown presents us with a feast of visual verve and is as committed to documenting anguish as it is ecstasy; it delivers romance that will lift your heart and tragedy that will bring tears to your eyes, underscored by a soundtrack that will most definitely stir your soul.

Limited release from Fri 18 Oct.

The Broken Circle Breakdown - trailer - English subs

The Broken Circle Breakdown

  • 4 stars
  • 2012
  • Belgium
  • 1h 49min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
  • Cast: Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse

Poetic, sometimes devastating tale of love and loss concerning Elise (Baetens), a tattoo artist, Didier (Heldenbergh), a musician, their romance, courtship and parenthood, all set to a soundtrack of Belgian bluegrass. Boldly cinematic, it's eccentric, exuberant and stirring.