The great comedian, Eddie Izzard, has a routine in which he describes how British films tend to be more subtle and reserved than their American counterparts, suggesting that while American films are explosive and action packed, with jet battles and lasers and aliens, English films tend to be about a "couple of people sitting around in a room counting matches". While Izzard is obviously exaggerating, he's not too far off the mark in many cases, and, while I love a lot of British cinema, I'll occasionally come across a film so leaden in its pace - so bogged down in banal dialogue and uninteresting situations - that I can't help but to describe it as anything but a "counting matches movie".
Seth Ellis' The Broken is just such a film.
Lena Headey stars as Gina McVey, a gorgeous young radiologist suffering from something of an identity crisis. You see, Gina has recently emerged from a potentially deadly car wreck virtually unscathed, and now finds herself questioning whether or not those around her are actually who they claim to be. Her once genial boyfriend, Stefan (Melvin Poupaud), has become surly and distant, and she's convinced that her father (played by the always wonderful character actor, Richard Jenkins) is hiding something from her - something that involves a woman who looks exactly like her; the same woman she saw just before her accident. Gina's doctors insist she's suffering from the psychological fallout from her accident, but, as the fragmented memories of the events leading up to the crash fall into place, she discovers more than she bargained for.
It's virtually impossible to go into any further detail without blowing the film's "surprise", but astute viewers and long time genre fans should have no trouble figuring out what that is within the first twenty minutes of the movie. Without giving anything away, I will say Ellis' Kafkaesque approach to a well-trodden plot device is decidedly unique and, on occasion, quite riveting, but The Broken moves at such a quiet and deliberate pace that any semblance of suspense is suffocated beneath the weight of the film's overly purposeful narrative.
Headey and Jenkins turn in wonderfully understated performances, while Ellis' stylized direction makes for a visually impressive film, but I just never got much of a sense of Gina's feelings of alienation nor did I ever feel particularly invested in the outcome. While I personally appreciated the fact that Ellis opted to leave the motivations and origins of the film's antagonists open to interpretation, I can see how others would feel cheated by the film's somewhat open-ended denouement.
Part of 2009's 8 Films to Die For Collection, Lionsgate brings The Broken to DVD with a smattering of extras, including trailers for several Lionsgate releases, as well as "Mrs. Horrorfest" webisodes.