The Broken Circle Breakdown

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(2012) ★★½

Film4: Sunday 7 June, 11.30pm

The fierce love of Flemish banjo player Johan Heldenbergh and tattoo parlour artist-turned-singer Veerle Baetens is tested by their young daughter’s terminal illness. It doesn’t help that Heldenbergh’s an atheist and Baetens proclaims her faith. Acclaimed at Cannes for The Misfortunates, director Felix Van Groeningen’s back-and-forth film festival follow-up was put forward as Belgium’s Oscar entry for Best foreign language picture (it lost to Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty). It’s actually adapted from a stage play (co-authored by leading man Heldenbergh) and the feeling persists that Broken Circle Breakdown is broken up in time because if the story unfolded chronologically it would be just another soggy soap, albeit more dark and intimate than is usually the case. Criss-crossing between their blossoming relationship in 1999 and their daughter’s cancer treatment in 2006, it’s Blue Valentine with bluegrass songs.

Certificate: 15
Duration: 112min