Where to begin with Broken…..well lets begin on a Monday where the film begins and we are invited into a house on an unnamed street. We meet people we will spend the next one and a half hours of screen time with and they include John (played by Mel Raido) ,a tetraplegic and Evie (played by Morjana Alaoui) his live in carer who more often than not is woken in the mornings by the demands of John through the intercom system set up in the house.Whilst Broken does focus mainly on Evie and John, we do see interactions with a few other people in Johns life including Dougie (Craig Conway), Molly (Stephanie Thomas), and Izzy (Natalie Louise Garcia) who all make up this tangled web of characters that we know nothing about but will soon learn everything we need to know.
I didn’t know much about ‘Broken’ before I began watching it and that was a purposeful decision by me. I knew the cast list, I knew some of the crew behind the film and I had seen the above poster art all over the internet as the film was screened at various festivals including Manchesters ‘Grimmfest’ and Londons ‘Frightfest’ to glowing reviews I might add, but I stayed away from the reviews in order to preserve any story points accidentally finding their way into my mind. So was it what I expected? Well I wasn’t sure what to expect. Whilst I figured the film would have horror elements to it with its appearance at Frightfest and Grimmfest I actually think the film spoke to be as a wonderful character drama and whilst it certainly does have its super grim and horrific ingredients, the film scares me more when I think that all these characters are 100% believable and all the actions that happen are 100% possible and more than likely will have happened (or happen) at some point in the world we live in.
The tone of the film is super dark and to make a film that real life care assistants have stated is ‘the most accurate film about the care industry that they have seen‘ It needs to be this way and show us more than making sandwiches and changing the odd bed pan. ‘Broken’ isn’t a popcorn film though that’s’for damn sure but is a fantastic piece of storytelling and filmmaking. Its bleak, its massively affecting long after the end credits roll, its sensitive yet also very hard hitting and the equivalent of a lump hammer to the vital organs in many places. But whilst the film isn’t something Ken Loach would make (and I do love Ken Loach films by the way) ‘Broken’ isn’t setting out to be a total social drama, although it does work as that. ‘Broken’ is a rollercoaster ride, albeit a tense slow burning pressure cooker type film that does keep you wondering for quite a while where the storyline is actually headed.(I love that about it) Its not a film where you can think ‘ah yes I know where this is going’ but nor is it a film with a ‘holy crap, an M Knight Shyamalan twist’ ‘Broken’ is a film about people, living lives that we more than likely have never been a part of and over the running time I learned a lot more about the care industry than I knew before. It also made me think ‘Who cares for the carers?. Who looks after them?’ The performances by the cast are top notch and Craig Conway shows us why he is one of the best character actors around with his role as Dougie, who to say the least isn’t someone id like in my house. (Dougie, not Craig) By far though the film truly belongs to Morjana Alaoui) (Evie) who we care about from the opening minutes as the hard working, frustrated and not well treated by anyone live in carer and also Mel Raido (John) who’s portrayal not only got me really disliking the guy on many occasions but who also gave me an understanding from his point of view about just how difficult his life has become since a fall from a roof has left him wheelchair bound.
‘Broken’ is the feature length debut of Shaun Robert Smith’s directing skills and he certainly has the skills. ‘Broken’ is set in a single location, a house. (Actor Mel Raido’s childhood home) And yet the film never tires of using the same location.I remember one shot where Evie is cooking two rashers of bacon in the kitchen on her own. Even in this simplistic scene, the camera glides, and makes it a beautiful moment. Who knew that cooking bacon could look interesting on film. But it did. The direction of ‘Broken’ is beautiful and Shaun and the crew should be so proud of the achievements,add to the great direction, a haunting score (by Daniel Dolby & Siddhartha Barnhoorn), great cast performances as highly interesting characters and a story from a world I’ve never seen before. All these ingredients make up one of my film highlights of the year and I cant recommend ‘Broken’ enough to all film fans. Check it out on digital download through sites such as Itunes and Amazon.
Directed by Shaun Robert Smith
Written by Shaun Robert Smith & Craig Conway