What if Atticus and Scout Finch were transported to present-day North London? Based on Daniel Clay’s novel, the film adaptation of Broken takes the inspiration of Harper Lee’s American classic to create a compelling portrait of what Scout, Boo Radley, Atticus, and others might look like in modern times. But it’s a less of a reproduction and more of an homage. First-time feature director Rufus Norris weaves a multi-character narrative set around Skunk, portrayed by novice actress Eloise Laurence, a tomboyish 11-year-old diabetic who lives with her father, brother, and nanny on a street full of secrets and sadness. After witnessing her mentally challenged neighbor get beaten to a pulp by another neighbor due to a false accusation, everything spirals out of control for Skunk and the families living in close quarters.
Veteran stage and screen actor Tim Roth plays the empathetic single father in the film, which is at turns moody, introspective, and earnestly sweet. Broken, which also stars Christopher Nolan favorite Cillian Murphy as Skunk’s troubled teacher and Rory Kinnear as a hot-tempered single father, premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and is currently playing in limited release in New York and Los Angeles, and is available on Amazon streaming.
Check out an exclusive clip from the film below, featuring Roth and Laurence, and EW’s interview with Roth, below.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is the first film for both Eloise Laurence, who plays your daughter Skunk, and the director Rufus Norris. What was that experience like?
TIM ROTH: I never really worry about that. I’ve worked with a directors who’ve done a ton of movies who haven’t been so good. Rufus works very, very well with actors. He had an opinion of what he wanted to do with the film and how he wanted it to look and move and also about the characters. It was one of those very lucky situations where even if it was his first time, it didn’t feel like that. He’d done a lot of opera and wasn’t afraid to take cinematic and thematic leaps throughout the film.
What about Eloise?
Eloise just sort of kicks it out of the park. She was the last one that Rufus looked at. She’d never acted before. She’s a singer and a composer — you’ll hear her beautiful voice and songs in the film — but she’s a remarkable kid. And then I watched her craft a performance. You’re not watching her play herself. We looked at each other sometimes and rolled our eyes because she was just so good. She had an innate ability to do this. She has to hold the whole film together. Suddenly we all had to up our game.
This isn’t a light film. It starts out with an alleged rape and a brutal beating.
On the one hand it’s about the journey from a child’s innocence to realizing that the monster under the bed is actually a reality. There’s some pretty tough stuff in this. But she keeps you in check. She’ll take you on this journey and she’ll hold your hand. It’s really quite beautiful.
It’s inspired by, but not a literal re-imagining of To Kill a Mockingbird.
The novelist lifted the character from Harper Lee and placed them in a middle class/working class setting, and then set them free over there. Boo Radley lives across the street. There’s Bob Ewell next door. Then there’s the accusations of rape. But then it blossoms out into its own world.
Tell us a little bit about your character Archie, who was inspired by Atticus Finch.
He’s a lawyer, a single dad. He looks after his kids. He gets them to school and pays the rent and he’s a very good father. He loves his kids, but he makes the usual mistakes that all fathers make. He’s a good man and he is known to be a good man. The problem is that he’s looking in the wrong direction when the sh– hits the fan. That’s what’s scary about it. It’s just something that can happen and it’s nobody’s fault. But really, we’re all kind of satellites around this leading lady. It’s an adult children’s tale.