Editor's note: This review first appeared in November during the Three Rivers Film Festival.
"The Broken Circle Breakdown"
Bring tissues or duck into the restroom and spin yourself a length of toilet tissue -- two or three feet ought to do it.
Nothing is lightly felt in this Dutch-language melodrama, Belgium's entry in the Oscar foreign-language film race. Love, desire, worry, sorrow, resentment, rage and surrender to a riptide of despair are played out in a story that tinkers with its timeline.
It opens in June 2006 in Ghent, Belgium, with Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (writer Johan Heldenbergh) devastated by the news that their 6-year-old daughter, Maybelle, has cancer.
Elise runs a tattoo shop and has her personal history inked on her body, and Didier is a banjo player. They literally make beautiful music together when Elise lends her sweet voice to his bluegrass band, they fix up his farmhouse and welcome a baby.
The girl's illness brings the differences between Elise and Didier -- she's religious, he is not and believes there is no life after death -- and need to assign blame for the medical misfortune into sharp relief.
"The Broken Circle Breakdown," from director Felix van Groeningen and featuring lovely new and familiar music, presents emotions that are raw, profound and expertly conveyed. It feels so much like real life that you want to look away, for fear of intruding on a family splitting apart at the seams.
In Flemish and English. No MPAA rating but R in nature. Opens Friday at Regent Square Theater