One lie starts a chain reaction that destroys or significantly alters the lives of everyone living on a cul-de-sac in Broken, director Rufus Norris’ brisk and surprisingly charming feature debut. That Norris doesn’t let the heavy subject matter bog down the picture or make it morose or treacly is pretty impressive.

For starters, there’s a false accusation of rape and a savage beating, followed by a trip to a mental ward. And that’s literally just the beginning. Broken follows the lives of about a dozen people, focusing mostly on 11-year-old Skunk (Eloise Laurence, who’s delightful), her brother Jed (Bill Milner) and her father Archie (Tim Roth).  There’s so much story packed into Broken that its 90-minute running time seems a little short; a couple more minutes of character development for each person would have been great. 

Plus, the Oswald family—a quartet of rotten, despicable human beings, who, if there’s any justice, will meet a tragic end after the credits roll—may make your blood boil, but every movie has to have its villains, right? Cillian Murphy is good in a small part, and Roth is at his best as the only level-headed person living in the neighborhood.

With Eloise Laurence, Tim Roth and Cillian Murphy
Directed by Rufus Norris

The Screen
90 min.