The Broken Circle Breakdown Screen 10 articles

The Broken Circle Breakdown

2012

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  • In focusing on the lives of the lefty arts circuit, director Felix Van Groeningen offers a fresh spin on hackneyed material, and the drama initially maintains its air of rootsy credibility due to the all-or-nothing performances from Baetens and Heldenbergh. Yet, problems arise when the story appears to reach its natural conclusion about 45 minutes in, and so we're treated to further hour of wallowing recriminations interspersed with sugar-sweet snatches of the pair's whimsical early courtship.

  • The Broken Circle Breakdown is too clumsily constructed in a nonlinear, elliptical fashion to register as dreamlike, but it does benefit from an array of handsomely shot and choreographed bluegrass performances that intermittently break up the somber mood. While the conventional drama scenes mostly elide compelling psychological context for Didier and Elise, the lengthy musical numbers ably show just how much the performances bring relief to the two struggling parents.

  • The performances are highlights, though they almost seem superfluous to the story, and there’s the nagging feeling that these gorgeous songs are simply being used in the name of quirk and/or easy emotional shorthands. (Just because the film features a genuinely moving version of “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby” doesn’t make its usage any less manipulative.)

  • [It alternates] family suffering with hearty flashbacks and banjo-playin' musical interludes, making for a searing emotional drama in the style of O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Unusual enough (if a little shameless) to be absorbing, and even alert to the contradictions in its (powerfully played) main character...

  • Like Nicolas Roeg's Bad Timing(1980), this jumps between the lovers' courtship, struggle, and dissolution; instead of making the familiar story line feel unpredictable, however, this cut-up approach gives way to a different kind of pattern. The movie swings like a pendulum between elation and despair, with little time devoted to anything in between.

  • The director pulls you in close to the physical and psychological spaces these people inhabit — sometimes too close. In one sequence, as a character drifts in and out of consciousness, we get a breakneck montage of flashbacks shot through colored filters, leading me to wonder if Danny Boyle had momentarily grabbed the camera. Van Groeningen has not yet mastered the adage of less is more.

  • After a while, the temporal shuffling feels more programmatic than revelatory and increasingly false. Elise and Didier are appealing characters, at once vaguely exotic and reassuringly familiar, and it’s pleasurable... to watch them fall in love. Yet, by insistently shuffling between the past and the present, Mr. Groeningen... creates a suspect, indefensible logic that suggests that it’s because Elise and Didier were once so intensely happy that their grief is so extraordinary.

  • Felix Van Groeningen’s film strikes some powerful emotional chords, even as its flashback/flash-forward formula wears thin. In one heart-warming scene, Didier’s shaggy bandmates serenade Maybelle. The honeyed musical performances are one of the film’s most appealing aspects... Touching if not always coherent, The Broken Circle Breakdown is a strange film but one worth watching.

  • At 110 minutes, one of the most remarkable things about this film is that it manages to feel so rich and expansive. Part of the magic is in the editing, which segues back and forth in time, from high moments to low, in much the same way as Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (2010) – and achieves the same intensity of feeling by the juxtaposition.

  • It’s as if Van Groeningen has somehow translated a hokey country-and-western ballad, all overheated passion and maudlin heartbreak, into something genuinely sublime: an oddly uplifting yet desperately sad movie. Multiple rounds of strong drink followed by intense all-night conversation are the only worthy aftermath to this mindblowing film.

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