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Review: 'Broken' deals with the messy pieces of life

The coming-of-age film features a captivating performance by young Eloise Laurence.

By Mark Olsen

11:30 AM EDT, July 18, 2013

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Mostly tucked away on a dead-end street, the action in "Broken" finds neighbors pushed into interacting with one another, with the mini-dramas played out in their own homes all intersecting once they spill out into the street.

Told largely from the perspective of an 11-year-old girl known as Skunk (Eloise Laurence), who lives with her father (Tim Roth), brother and live-in nanny, she watches the struggles of an older-couple dealing with their mentally and emotionally challenged adult son while a single dad has his hands full with three troublemaker daughters. Cillian Murphy passes through as a teacher caught between personal and professional obligations.

Adapted from a novel by Daniel Clay with a screenplay by Mark O'Rowe, the film is the feature directing debut for Rufus Norris, already an acclaimed director in the British theater. Unlike many who make the transition from stage to screen, Norris does not over-use the camera, leaving the film feeling unfussy, while also not going too far into the territory of rough-and-tumble kitchen sink miserabilism. The film maintains a tempered air throughout, even as the mishaps pile up upon the residents of one extremely eventful cul-de-sac.

In a quietly captivating performance, Laurence captures the transitional confusion of a girl on the cusp of teen knowingness, increasingly aware that there is an adult world of sex, ambiguous emotions and complicated relationships, but also completely unable to understand any of it. Solidly done if somewhat unremarkable, there is nothing particularly wrong with "Broken," nothing that needs fixing exactly, and yet it never fully comes together.

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"Broken"

Rating: No MPAA rating

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Playing at: the Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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