Evie is trying to make her life better by taking a job taking care of a tetraplegic, John, who can be a disagreeable handful. As she cares for him and attempts to bond with him somewhat, her past comes popping back up. Written by Shaun Robert Smith and co-writer Craig Conway and directed by Shaun Robert Smith, Broken is as much about John’s battle to regain some happiness after becoming tetraplegic and not giving up on life as it is about Evie trying to help him become more independent as she attempts to redo her life and forget her past. Evie is the definite lead, but John’s story is about as important.
Both of their characters are layered and these layers are revealed one by one as they get to know each other and their own limits. The characters created here are not fully loveable but they are trying to be better. The characters here make the entire film work as everything revolves around the two leads, the people in their lives, and what they are trying to do. The writing of the characters is what makes them people that one wants to watch and the developments in the story are surprising and they work with the story itself. There is a development that requires a bit of a jump or leap of faith, but it still works. The cast for these leads is important as they support some much of the movie and their performances influence the how the characters come across.
In the part of Evie, Morjana Alaoui starts off as an annoyed woman doing what she can to survive and eventually she lets John, and the audience, into her past with devastating effects on herself and the listener. Alaoui plays this part with the right amount of restraint until it’s time to let everything go. Her performance is what keeps the viewer watching along with Mel Raido as John. He gives his character a sadness and vulnerability along with his anger and grief over his past way of life. His character comes off as a pissed off disabled man but there is more to him, shown through the performance by Raido.
The film takes place almost entirely in one house, the house where John lives. The place adds to the stress of the situation with Evie living above from John as he cannot make it up the stairs anymore. The house itself is simple and looks like many houses in the UK, but it is used to create a separation between Evie’s life and John’s. It also serves to show how much John needs Evie. The house is shot in a way that it looks almost claustrophobic at times, with images framed by cinematography by Kyle Heslop. His images add a lot to the story and the feelings of the film.
Broken is a thriller with some horror elements, it takes a long time to get really going but the build-up is worth it when it really hits its stride. The last part of the film may make a few go “Holy shit!” as the action really goes into high gear and the revelations lead to the an interesting and surprising last act. The writing lends itself to this ending even though it may not seem like so at first. The acting sells the action and makes it make more sense. The film is a slow burn with a sudden change of pace that is entertaining and works once it’s all said and done.
Brooklyn Horror Film Festival had its first edition from October 14th through October 16th, 2016.