Monday, May 5, 2014

The neighbors from hell

As if being called Skunk wasn't bad enough, the young heroine of the film Broken has to deal with much more than any young girl should.  Skunk lives with her father, older brother and nanny in present-day London.  Her mother left the family some time ago, but her father (played by a very sympathetic Tim Roth) is a successful lawyer and is very involved in the lives of his children.  One day, Skunk has just spoken with her neighbor Rick when another neighbor comes flying out of his house and begins beating Rick.  Skunk is frozen with horror while witnessing the unprovoked attack.

It turns out that the hostile neighbor, Mr. Oswald, believes that the mentally slow Rick has raped one of his daughters.  The Oswald family is also without a mother, but she died and left the three daughters behind to be cared for by the mentally unbalanced Oswald.  In stark contrast to Skunk's father, Mr. Oswald's form of parenting involves shouting and threats interspersed with general neglect.  The police show up and, taking Mr. Oswald's word that Rick is a rapist, arrest the injured young man.  Once again, Skunk is a witness to this strange behavior from the adults.

At the same time, the nanny Kasia is in a long-term relationship with Mike (Cillian Murphy).  While visiting his girlfriend, Mike spends a lot of time with Skunk and her brother.  It turns out that Mike is nearly finished with a teacher training course, and so Skunk is delighted when he turns out to be her teacher when school begins again after a break.  Too bad that Kasia has grown tired of the status quo of their relationship and broken it off.

Rick is soon found to be innocent by the police, but he's so traumatized by the events that happened to him that he refuses to leave his room.  Skunk tries to visit her old friend, but his mother won't let her in the house.  Luckily, Skunk has found a boyfriend and begins spending time with him at a junkyard that's near her home.

The Oswald sisters, however, are definitely the villains of the story.  Mean, meaner and meanest, they spend their time shouting abuse at people in the street, bullying classmates, throwing wild parties, and generally being terrors.  When two of the sisters corner Skunk on her way home and begin assaulting her, Mike is able to save her because he happens to pass by and witness it.  However, now Mike has also caught the attention of the evil trio, so when one of the sisters turns up pregnant, I wonder who they'll blame?  And of course, their father, Mr. Oswald, isn't one to take kindly to people having sex with his daughters (real or imagined).


Things go from bad to worse for Skunk as her boyfriend informs her he's leaving town while at the same time  her father begins a relationship she doesn't approve of.  When she doesn't come home one night, her father begins a frantic search for her.  Skunk is also suffering from Type I diabetes, and all this stress has been hard on her health.  In the end, Skunk has to make a decision about what direction her life is going to take.

I was wondering if this movie would be too depressing, but I really enjoyed it.  Skunk is a cheerful, resilient character who is trying to make sense of the events going on around her.

Final verdict for Broken: Four Gherkins, for being an uplifting look at the life of an irrepressible young girl

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