Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) share a passionate romance, followed by marriage and parenthood, in the Belgian drama "The Broken Circle Breakdown." Courtesy Tribeca Film
Love and tragedy, to a bluegrass beat, in ‘Broken Circle Breakdown’
Review » Belgian drama boasts fine cast and a sharp structure.
First Published Feb 27 2014 03:33 pm • Last Updated Feb 27 2014 04:21 pm

The minor-key strains of American folk music permeate the Belgian drama "The Broken Circle Breakdown," one of this year’s foreign-language Oscar nominees and a movie with enough heartbreak for a dozen folk songs.

We meet Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh, who co-wrote the play on which the film is based) in 2006, in a hospital room where their 6-year-old daughter, Maybelle (Nell Cattrysse), is enduring needle pricks and other discomforts. We soon glean the clues that Maybelle is undergoing chemotherapy for leukemia — and that Elise and Didier’s marriage is in as rough a shape as their daughter’s health.

At a glance

HHHhj

‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’

A couple’s passionate start and their child’s battle with cancer are chronicled through a shared love of American folk music in this touching Belgian drama.

Where » Broadway Centre Cinemas

When » Opens Friday, Feb. 28, 2014

Rating » Not rated, but probably R for strong sexuality and language.

Running time » 111 minutes; dialogue in Flemish, with subtitles; songs in English.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Director Felix Van Groeningen and his co-scriptwriter, Carl Joos, then pull the narrative apart and reassemble it out of chronological order. They show us Elise, a tattoo artist, when she first hears Didier, a banjo player in a bluegrass band, performing in a bar. Then they show us the first time they make love, and the happy aftermath as she explains the stories behind her many tattoos.

Forward and backward on the timeline, and the movie picks out more important moments: the day Elise tells Didier she’s pregnant, the way Elise gradually is accepted as the singer in Didier’s band, Didier’s ongoing project to turn an old church into a livable home, and the first diagnosis of Maybelle’s cancer — an event that consumes all three of their lives.

Along the way, there is an overt message about faith and religion. Elise is quietly Christian, passing to Maybelle a crucifix her family has worn for generations. Didier is an atheist who becomes angered by conservative Christians who oppose the stem-cell research that could save Maybelle’s life. His wrath flares out mainly at the American president, George W. Bush (seen in news footage as he vetoes funding on stem-cell research), a paradox for a man who idolizes America and its bluegrass music.

Van Groeningen underlines the quiet tragedy of this story with the music of Didier and Elise’s performances. These spouses can’t talk about their heartache and loss to each other, but they can express those feelings through the old songs.

Heldenbergh exudes a rough-and-tumble charm as Didier, whose romantic idealism takes a beating over the course of his life. He’s neatly matched by Baetens, a beauty whose outer toughness masks a touching vulnerability. Together, they are amazing and make "The Broken Circle Breakdown" a poignant drama that earns its many tears.

movies@sltrib.com

Twitter: @moviecricket




Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.