Friday 18 October 2013

"The Broken Circle Breakdown" (The Guardian 18/10/13)

The Broken Circle Breakdown (15) 111 mins ***

Advance word on this Flemish tearjerker was formidable, but I’m afraid I couldn’t quite see past the oddness of its conceit: to redo Blue Valentine with songs. Felix van Groeningen’s film at least justifies its title’s eccentricity: the relationship between a beardy bluegrass singer (Johan Heldenbergh) and a tattooed free spirit (Veerle Baetens) is set out as fragments of life before and after the death of their young child, scrapbooking nudey frolics alongside heavily-worn regret. The music lends it whatever unity it has: though there’s a certain comic incongruity in the idea of all this banjo-plucking going down in Northern Europe – the spirit of Rednex lingers – it’s chiefly regarded as a fleeting source of solace. The leads emote their hearts out, and it’ll doubtless make a resonant soundtrack album – but van Groeningen needs those tunes to carry us over his somewhat contrived and flatpack-like vision of bohemia. 

The Broken Circle Breakdown opens in selected cinemas from today.

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