I've been waiting for a few weeks for "The Broken Circle Breakdown" to show up at a movie theater in Roanoke, but I never saw it advertised*, so I was delighted to find it on AmazonPrime tonight. I'm not certain it's even finished its American theatrical run yet (it ran in Europe in 2009-2010), but it is a movie well worth the wait.
The Belgian production was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Foreign Film.
It is, at its core, a love story. But it is dark, full of pain and disappointment of the kind that only the death of a child can bring. It is the story of Elise (Veerle Baetens), a tattoo artist, and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh), a welder, who fall in love through a bluegrass band, get married and have a lovely child. The girl, Maybelle (after Mother Maybelle Carter) develops cancer and the bonds between Elise and Didier are tested to their very limits.
The movie poses a dilemma every parent dreads even the thought of and deals with it directly, courageously and without undue sentiment. These are strong and happy people tested to their limits and the movie is an impressive accomplishment, a blend of joy and sorrow that is at the core of this genre of music.
The film is powerfully directed by Fleix Van Groeningen from a play. The story is told in an often confusing disorder that is as far from linear as I've ever been, but I never lost the thread. It even made sense to structure it this way.
The stars, Baetens and Heldenbergh, are not Hollywood beauties. They're much more ordinary in appearance, but they are well drawn in these roles and their chemistry is undeniable. They're funny and sexy and argumentative and great in duets (their version of "If I Needed You" is a high point of the movie).
I've never heard of nor seen the work of anybody associated with this movie, but I'd sure like to see more. It is impressive. If you get the chance, watch it. Have a towel handy.
* Apparently the movie showed up at the Grandin Theatre for a week, but the Grandin's marketing is not always good and I didn't know it was there. Thank god for Netflix/AmazonPrime.