‘Broken’ Movie Review – Killing ‘Mockingbird’
I don’t really want this to be an argument about the greatest novel of all-time. However, I think Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird certainly deserves to be in the conversation. From the beginning of Rufus Norris’ Broken, I could see similarities between the characters/plot and To Kill a Mockingbird. Broken turns out to be more of an homage to the film, but it takes a turn that makes it confusing in regards to what they’re trying to say. In the end, I think it’s a bleak and misguided attempt to explore similar themes of innocence.
By simply looking at Skunk (Eloise Laurence), you can see similarities between her and Scout. Then we see Jed/Jem, Dillon/Dill, Archie/Atticus, Bob Oswald/Bob Ewell and you really start get see they’re the same characters. The story, though, is a lot more depressing. To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t exactly uplifting – it deals with rape, prejudice, and murder – but Lee does a good job of showing it in a lighthearted way through the eyes of a young protagonist.
Broken starts with a wrongfully accused young man, named Rick (Robert Emms) surely modeled after Tom Robinson (or perhaps Boo Radley?), that gets beat to a pulp by his neighbor Bob (Rory Kinnear). When young Skunk sees this happen, her life and personality changes going forward. Having seen what she’s seen and being impressionistically young, the rest of the movie sees her deal with this trauma – hence the name Broken.
As the film gets more psychologically thrilling, it veers further and further away from the “source material.” As a To Kill a Mockingbird apologist, it did rub me the wrong way. The various winks and nods to 1930’s Maycomb, Alabama were appreciated – and I initially thought it was cool – but I think the end result in Broken is about the opposite feeling I got from Mockingbird. In fact, it makes me question if it is paying respects or poking fun at the book.
Stepping back from the novel and trying to take away any comparisons to it, I find that Broken does try to tackle some really important things. Yes, it is over-melodramatic, but there is no denying that young people are shaped by their childhood. If you grow up in a tough situation, you definitely can overcome it; however, you are put in an unfair situation that some people simply won’t make it out of unscathed. In this sense, Broken shows firsthand the nature of this beast.
As a dark and twisted thriller, Broken is a pretty haunting film. Besides the idea of “breaking” innocence, it taps into the violent nature of overcoming unfair biases with Rick and Bob’s characters. It also has one of the creepiest dream sequences I can remember, which could spawn an entire conversation itself.
Consider Rufus Norris’ Broken an R-rated To Kill a Mockingbird and you may be disappointed. Look at it as a dark take on innocence, and you certainly won’t be overjoyed (it’s hard to find “joy” anywhere), but you may appreciate the film’s motive. In the end, I’m in the first camp because the connections to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are too many to be coincidental, making this seem like a rip-off more than an homage.
Broken is available in limited release starting this weekend. Check the film out if you think it sounds interesting.
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