If you’re in the need of a good cry I’ve got the movie for you
Didier is a banjo player and singer in a bluegrass band. He meets the tattoo artist Elise and they fall in love. Life brings them a child, Maybelle, not planned, but very much loved. It also brings them a cancer disease and no matter how the couple struggle to resist it, shielding themselves with music, religion and anti-religion, it gets to them, threatening to destroy their lives.
This is the story of the Belgian movie The Broken Circle Breakdown. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from the big emotions. Instead it goes for them, all out, enhanced by a beautiful cinematography and music oozing of melancholy and bitter sweetness.
It’s always a risky thing to do for a movie to head out on the road of tragedy and tears. You run the risk to be ridiculed and sneered at for being overly sentimental or even manipulative by critics who have put their hearts in a locker and thrown away the key, never letting anything or anyone get near them.
I was on the opposite end watching the movie. I embraced every emotion in it, and my only regret was that I hadn’t brought any tissue paper with me to wipe my tears.
This took me a little by surprise. I knew very little, apart from that it contained some version of country music, and country has never been a favourite of mine – cheap and cheesy as it tended to be – so why would a movie built around it be any better?
But as so many times before, my prejudices turned out to be ill-judged. Bluegrass isn’t just any kind of country music. Influenced by Scottish and Irish folk music, it’s far better, not so eager to please, more wild than glossy. Just like the movie.
The role of the music
As we learn more and more about this couple, jumping back and forward in time through a series of flashbacks, music is the uniting factor that holds the story together. When Elise and Didier get to the point where they’ve lost their words and can’t communicate their thoughts and emotions anymore, they can till sing and play it and the songs turn into a commentary on what’s going in their lives.
If you’re in the mood for some bluegrass music, if you’re in the need of a good cry, if you need an outlet for a grief you never dared to deal with, this movie is for you.
Just leave your inner cynic at home.
The Broken Circle Breakdown (Felix Van Groeningen, BE 2012) My rating: 4,5/5