Synopsis: Elise and Didier fall in love at first sight, in spite of their differences. He talks, she listens. He’s a romantic atheist, she’s a religious realist. When their daughter becomes seriously ill, their love is put on trial.
Stars: Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh, Robby Cleiren, Geert Van Rampelberg
Director: Felix Van Groeningen
Running Length: 111 minutes
TMMM Score: (7.5/10)
Review: Dang it if the poster for The Broken Circle Breakdown didn’t already make the comparison between this Oscar nominated film from Belgium and 2010’s Blue Valentine. Both films show the complexities of marriage and don’t shy away from allowing the hardships to take center stage, challenging the central husband and wife to figure a way to move forward. In both, it’s not as important if they wind up staying together because by the end they’re now inextricably linked and no amount of time or space can tear that apart.
I’d also say that the film has a lot in common with 2006’s Once, another love story with music that brings two very different people together as they strive for harmony on and off stage. With a score filed with aching bluegrass that is soul stirring and haunting, The Broken Circle Breakdown makes plenty of sweet music when the microphones are turned off too.
Even though it’s not told in chronological order, the love affair of tattoo shop owner Elise (Veerle Baetens) and musician Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) doesn’t need a running leap to get off the ground. We meet them after they’re married, caring for their daughter who is sick with cancer. Over the next two hours the film jumps back and forth between the past and present not exactly working toward ending at a time that meets in the middle.
It’s interesting that the movie was adapted by director Felix Van Groeningen from Heldenbergh’s own play because I don’t have the faintest idea of how the narrative of the stage work could have been translated into this fully realized, multi layered feature film. However he did it, though, the end result is a moving achievement, aided by Baetens riveting performance.
Though it hits some off key notes in a misplaced series of rants that nearly destroy the magic, Van Groeningen gets things back on track fast enough that all is forgiven by the time the emotional finale creeps up on us. With its right-on ear for song and its bold, honest performances from everyone involved…it’s not a huge shock this film made enough of an impression to land on Oscar’s shortlist. Worth viewing…and then go out and nab a copy of the soundtrack.