“Broken” is a modern British reimagining of Harper Lee’s classic novel “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
The film, directed by Rufus Norris, follows a young girl nicknamed Skunk (Eloise Laurence) on her journey to adulthood.
“Broken” revolves around three families living on the same cul-de-sac in the English suburbs. Skunk witnesses her neighbor and friend, a mentally-ill young man named Rick who lives with his parents, being assaulted by another neighbor, Mr. Oswald (Rory Kinnear), over false rape accusations made by Oswald’s daughter. The incident lands Rick in a mental hospital.
The lives of everyone in the cul-de-sac spin out of control when Oswald’s daughter becomes pregnant and claims, out of fear of her father, that she was taken advantage of by Skunk’s favorite teacher, Mike Kiernan (Cillian Murphy). Scout’s father, Archie (Tim Roth), steps in to defend the innocent teacher.
The film has many close parallels to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The touching moments between Skunk and Archie are a credit to Scout and Atticus’ memorable father-daughter relationship. The scenes of Skunk and her brother Jed (Bill Milner) playing in a scrapyard capture the innocence of childhood in the same way that the passages of Lee’s novel do. If the rest of “Broken” was this true to the sentiment of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” it would have been a better film.
“Broken” has a distinctly darker tone than its inspiration. It fails to communicate the sense of optimism in the face of adversity that permeates its predecessor and made “To Kill a Mockingbird” one of the most iconic American stories. This may be a symptom of the generally more cynical point of view taken by British filmmakers not translating well for American audiences.
What we are given is a gritty film with a microscopic focus on the brokenness and dysfunction of three families. “Broken” was an interesting look into the lives of its characters and is a decent film taken on its own. The film is beautiful to look at, and the fuzzy timeline and surrealist feel mimic how adults remember childhood in a way that is both unique and effective.
The shoes that “Broken” had to fill were simply too large. I doubt that any spin-off or remake of “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be able to live up to the iconic 1962 film. However, “Broken” was a sincere and well-executed attempt to recreate the characters that made “To Kill a Mockingbird” a cultural phenomenon.