The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

If you’re in the need of a good cry I’ve got the movie for you

with 11 comments


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

Written by Jessica

September 10, 2013 at 1:00 am

11 Responses

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  1. I’ll watch it later this week. Felix Van Groeningen is my favorite Flemish director though. I can highly recommend his previous works.

    The Misfortunates is a great movie that most people who went to see it liked. Great story, fun humor and some good acting. You can’t go wrong here.

    Steve & Sky and especially With Friends Like These are favourites of me. But they’re not such crowd pleasers, they’re rather sad. They can be compared to Lost in Translation I guess. A certain longing underlines the movie but they don’t act on it for one reason or another.


    September 10, 2013 at 2:36 am

    • I hope you’ll love it as much as I did. I’ve never seen anything by this director before or even heard of him, but now I’d love to see more of his work, provided I can find it with Swedish translation. Thank you for your recommendations!


      September 10, 2013 at 10:59 pm

  2. Great post, Jessica! Really want to check this one out now!


    September 10, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    • I hope it will find a way out in the world. You don’t see Belgian movies very often, but this one deserves an audience.


      September 11, 2013 at 7:10 am

      • Yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen a Belgian film before. I’ll look for this one.


        September 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm

        • Other Belgian movies that I recommend: Bullhead, The Kid With a Bike, Mr Nobody.


          September 12, 2013 at 12:11 am

          • Nice choices, still haven’t seen Mr Nobody myself but I loved the other two. Mmm, let me add Loft to the list. See it before the US remake hits the screens somewhere later this year 😉


            September 12, 2013 at 12:43 am

          • I’ve heard great things about those, especially Bullhead.


            September 12, 2013 at 4:41 am

  3. Excellent performances. Superb soundtrack and editing. The way the highs and lows are shown back to back, this one is an emotional roller coaster. What bothered me was the blunt political message towards the end, a bit heavy handed for my liking. The French film DECLARATION OF WAR by Valerie Donzelli, makes a perfect companion piece to this.

    Bonjour Tristesse

    September 26, 2013 at 1:44 am

    • Thank you for the recommendation. I haven’t heard of that.
      I can see what you mean about the blunt political message. For some reason it didn’t bother me. I think I was too engaged in he emotional roller coaster to really care.


      November 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm

  4. […] 9. The Broken Circle Breakdown Leave your inner cynic at home. […]

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