"The Broken Circle Breakdown" Movie Review: 2 1/2 Stars
by Kenneth Turan
Bluegrass music and films in the Flemish language are not usually thought of in the same breath, but "The Broken Circle Breakdown" is determined to marry them. The result, not surprisingly, is somewhat mixed.
Bluegrass, as its fans know, has adherents all over the world --
More than that, the sound and its close cousin, country music, are certainly familiar with extreme situations: Legendary performers the Louvin Brothers didn't call one of their most popular albums "Tragic Songs of Life" for nothing. And there are moments in "Broken Circle" -- the title references the Carter Family's "Can the Circle Be Unbroken" -- when the songs and the tragedy make strong music together.
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The film's stars,
Heldenbergh, who wrote the original stage production that "Broken Circle" is based on, and Baetens are equally strong as actors and have visible chemistry together in this story of more than half a dozen years in a strongly emotional relationship.
Less successful, however, are the story told by the film's script, co-written by
Rather than tell its story chronologically, in reverse chronology or via a flashback from the present to the past, "Broken Circle" goes back and forth between then and now, between the couple's happy past and their bleak present.
While this sounds intriguing in theory, in practice it dilutes whatever pleasure we can get from the couple's happy days and makes the bad times seem as if they never have a chance to go away.
Heldenbergh plays Didier, the banjo player in a bluegrass group who has a chance meeting with
The two fall for each other fast, and in the blink of an eye, Elise has gone from someone who never heard of the father of bluegrass --
But before it shows us these cheerful beginning moments, "Broken Circle" reveals Didier and Elise as a married couple having to cope with the sad fact that Maybelle, their 6-year-old daughter -- named after
So back and forth we go from the great sex that Didier and Elise had in their early days to the unremitting horrors of Maybelle's treatments and the body blows that situation inflicts on their relationship. Not to mention Didier's perplexing rants about American fundamentalism and stem cell research.
Sometimes shameless, sometimes effective, it may remind you of a country song, but it's hard to say which one.
No MPAA rating. Running time: 1:50..
"The Broken Circle Breakdown" Movie Trailer
When Elise and Didier meet, it’s love at first sight. When their daughter is born, their happiness is complete. But when a crisis strikes the new family, these two lovers must fight for their marriage