When Didier walks into Elise’s tattoo parlour, he isn’t looking for a piece of body art. He’s struck by the woman behind the counter: enigmatic and beautiful, Didier is drawn to her immediately and invites her to see ‘an excellent bluegrass band’ who are playing in town later that week. Intrigued, Elise shows up unsure what to expect, and pushes her way to the front of the crowd to find Didier centre stage. The two strike up a romance, and Elise joins the band as a singer. A few years later, they are married and have a daughter, Maybelle. They live in a beautiful house which Didier restored from the ground up, and life seems to be ticking along rather nicely.
Then Maybelle starts to feel tired all the time. Her gums are bleeding and bruises are appearing on her body. Multiple hospital visits later, their daughter is diagnosed with cancer and their world turns upside-down. The strength of their relationship is tested as they realise how different they are when it comes to life and death: Elise is a practical, religious woman whilst Didier is a staunch atheist but a romantic at heart. Dealing with their daughter’s illness affects them both in very different ways, but will it ultimately drive a wedge between them, or will they find themselves able to grow together and move on?
A beautifully acted movie with an excellent soundtrack, The Broken Circle Breakdown tugs at the heartstrings and brings up questions of life and death, love and loss. Its only downfall is perhaps how much it jumps around; past, present and future are intertwined and it often takes a couple of minutes to work out whether you’re watching the same timeframe as the previous scene. The music lifts the film beyond what might otherwise be a fairly average, if touching, drama. The haunting tones of Belgian bluegrass provide the perfect accompaniment to the events that are taking place; in some ways it is almost more musical than movie.
Out to own on DVD from the 25th of November, The Broken Circle Breakdown is not to be missed if you like good music or touching family dramas.