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Broken DVD Review

Broken (2013) movie poster Broken

US Theatrical Release: July 19, 2013 (UK: March 8, 2013) / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: Rufus Norris / Writers: Daniel Clay (novel), Mark O'Rowe (screenplay)

Cast: Tim Roth (Archie Cunningham), Cillian Murphy (Mike Kiernan), Rory Kinnear (Bob Oswald), Robert Emms (Rick Buckley), Zana Marjanovic (Kasia), Clare Burt (Mrs. Buckley), Bill Milner (Jed Cunningham), Denis Lawson (Mr. Buckley), Eloise Laurence (Skunk Cunningham), George Sargeant (Dillon), Rosalie Kosky-Hensman (Susan Oswald), Faye Daveney (Saskia Oswald), Martha Bryant (Sunrise Oswald)

Buy Broken from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Every month since January 2003, Film Movement has released one movie to DVD prior to its general US theatrical release as part of their Film of the Month Club. These new independent and foreign films are mailed out to members,
who can choose from a monthly, yearly, or partial year subscription. Adapting to the times, the company now gives their customers the choice to have streaming access to all the titles in their library in addition to or instead of the monthly DVD.

The films eventually make their way to general retail, also at the rate of one per month. November's retail release, the UK drama Broken, was last January's selection, thus it is designated "Year 11, Film 1." It poses my introduction to this line and possibly yours. It happens to be one of the more attention-grabbing titles to pass through Film Movement, being in English and starring two globally accomplished actors known for their work with prestigious directors, Tim Roth (of Quentin Tarantino films) and Cillian Murphy (a veteran of both Christopher Nolan and Danny Boyle).

In "Broken", the Cunninghams (Eloise Laurence and Tim Roth) are a family of love and type 1 diabetes.

Adapted from Daniel Clay's 2008 novel, Broken tells a story of three families that live on the same London block. Our primary focus is the Cunninghams, consisting of pre-teen daughter Skunk (Eloise Laurence), teenaged brother Jed (Bill Milner), their lawyer father Archie (Roth). It takes a while to figure out the fourth member of their household, Kasia (Zana Marjanovic), is a live-in nanny, whom the kids have needed since their mother left Archie long ago. For four years, Kasia has been in a relationship with Mike Kiernan (Murphy), an Irish teacher who now counts Skunk among his new pupils.

A Type I diabetic, Skunk is a friendly and curious girl who enjoys hanging out in a remote abandoned camper with a boy (George Sergeant) she befriends. Skunk always has a nice word for Rick Buckley (Robert Emms), a mentally handicapped young neighbor to whom others are far less kind. Skunk witnesses fellow neighbor Mr. Oswald (Rory Kinnear) commit a brutal attack on Rick and is puzzled to then find Rick being taken into police custody.

Turns out that the 14-year-old middle of the three nasty daughters of abrasive widower Oswald has accused Rick of rape. Though the accusations quickly fall apart, the episode has lingering effects on Rick, requiring him to be checked into a mental institution.

That isn't the extent of the Oswald family's mayhem, as a different rape claim threatens another reputation and bruises the equally innocent party accused. Meanwhile, the youngest Oswald (Martha Bryant) bullies Skunk at school and an Oswald girl becomes pregnant.

At his new job, Cunningham family friend Mike (Cillian Murphy) is now called Mr. Kiernan. The Oswald girls (Martha Bryant, Rosalie Kosky-Hensman, Faye Daveney) dole out abuse in three different sizes.

As you can likely surmise, Broken is no feel-good family drama. Bad things happen on top of other bad things and the finale feels like an all-out beatdown on your soul. Stage-seasoned British director Rufus Norris, making his film debut, and Irish screenwriter Mark O'Rowe invest wholeheartedly in their cast of characters, fixing on Skunk and assuming her perspective,
but surveying all the people in her life and giving us insight into their points of view.

There is a moral scale established, which places the all-good Skunk and foul-mouthed little monster Sunrise Oswald (whose bullying, it must be said, is at times hilarious) at opposite ends. Everyone else falls somewhere in between. For instance, Mr. Oswald's violent outbursts are a product of his protective nature. The movie deals in shades of gray, the ample human intrigue enhanced by Norris' easily-digested, tiny leaps of non-linearity.

In a number of ways, Broken aligns with To Kill a Mockingbird. Newcomer Eloise Laurence is practically the spitting image of Mockingbird's Academy Award-nominated Scout, Mary Badham. Character names are mild variations; e.g. Boo Radley becomes Rick Buckley, Jem becomes Jed, Atticus is Archie, and Dill is now Dillon. The plots also overlap with elements like a virtuous single father lawyer, false rape accusations, and a father's wrath. Broken departs from Harper Lee's iconic 1961 source text some, especially at the end and in an underplayed romantic triangle. It never has the power, flavor or lyrical beauty. Still, the themes and devices seem every bit relevant and riveting applied to modern-day London.

Though unrated by the MPAA, Broken would definitely earn an R for language, violence, and sex.

Broken DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com DVD Disc Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None
Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled or Captioned
Release Date: November 5, 2013 (Film-of-the-Month Club Debut: January 2013)
Suggested Retail Price: $24.95
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Clear Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video


Film Movement has yet to make the jump to Blu-ray. For standard definition, Broken looks plenty good. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer exhibits some grain in a few places, but otherwise does a splendid job of presenting the film's striking cinematography. You'll have to select the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack if you want to hear it, as a plain 2.0 stereo mix plays by default. The 5.1 mix is unremarkable but good. Disappointingly, Film Movement includes closed captions instead of English SDH subtitles, which means if the sometimes thick accents slip past those watching on an HDMI connection, they'll simply have to try hearing again. It's not a big deal, though, as the audio is handled evenly and clearly for the most part.

Tim Roth is the first of four to speak about "Broken." Cillian Murphy is one of five actors treated to on-disc biographies.


The DVD's extras begin with "Stars & Director Speak" (25:11), which serves up separate edited interviews with Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Eloise Laurence, and director Rufus Norris.

They talk at length about their characters and their collaborators.

A Bios & Trailers section holds biographies for Norris and five leading cast members plus Broken's US trailer (2:28).

Additional Film Movement selections are promoted on a separate page, where the three trailers that play automatically at disc insertion (for Clandestine Childhood, Shun Li and the Poet, and The Dynamiter) are joined by ones for Somers Town, Ben X, and Alexandra's Project.

Every Film Movement DVD apparently includes a short film unrelated to the feature. Broken is joined by The Way the World Ends (14:54), written and directed by Matthew B. Wolff. In it, a middle-aged suburban man (Joseph Butler) and his wife (Mary Mackey) awake to find the sun gone but life in a gray dome otherwise entirely ordinary. It's intriguing but also weird and depressing.

Finally, a text screen talks up Film Movement and lets you replay the disc-opening company promo.

The clear keepcase uses the reverse side of the cover artwork to provide a paragraph explaining their selection of Broken and three others excerpting an interview about the movie by director Rufus Norris.

The main menu places listings over slow-motion clips from the film. Submenus are static and silent, but nicely illustrated.

Verbal abuse pushes Rick Buckley (Robert Emms) into a mental asylum. Skunk (Eloise Laurence) has two paths to choose from in her symbolically-depicted climactic life or death struggle.


Broken is a somewhat challenging and frequently depressing human drama which borrows heavily from To Kill a Mockingbird. This three-family character study remains gripping throughout and only overreaches at its end. It's worth a look, either in Film Movement's adequate DVD release or your preferred rental service.

Buy Broken from Amazon.com: DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed October 31, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Film Movement, BBC Films, BFI, LipSync Productions, Bill Kenwright Films, and Cuba Productions.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.