By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Belgium has… chocolate, waffles, a legacy of genocide that makes Stalin look like an amateur… oh, and Jean Claude Van Damme. Moviewise, that’s about the popular knowledge whole of it, unless you know the radiant Audrey Hepburn was actually a Belgian, or have boarded the Matthias Schoenaerts train already.
All aboard the Tom Hardy 2.0 Express!
Well, prepare for a little more Belgian film knowledge, as Oscar Foreign Language Film nominee The Broken Circle Breakdown should definitely be on your radar. The film is the time-jumping narrative of the relationship rise and fall of two of your everyday, run of the mill Belgian bluegrass fans.
Love ’em or hate ’em
It might have landed in Foreign Language Film, but this one should have had another nomination in the bag with original song “If I Needed You.” While this gorgeous, heartbreaking old-school Bluegrass tune, or the rest of the excellent soundtrack, isn’t the main reason this film is so good, it’s likely to be your entrance into it, and the beautiful, sad tone it sets fits it perfectly.
This is primarily an all-too-realistic relationship post mortem, and the carefree beauty of its inception, all the way to its depressing finale calls to mind Blue Valentine more than anything.
Director Felix Van Groeningen does a great job with the film’s style and feel, but the real reason The Broken Circle Breakdown even comes close to what I consider one of the finest films about love ever made is by the strength of its performances.
Now don’t get your hearts all a-flutter. There’s no Ryan Gosling 2.0 Express. Tickets would be sold out by now anyway.
Johan Heldenbergh first comes across as a dick, or a big, immature kid, but as the film goes on he invests his character with more and more depth, to the point that his pain becomes your pain no matter how much he acts out. The real stand-out, here, though, is Veerle Baetens, who is sexy, strong, vulnerable, hopeful, hopeless, mature, foolish, and one hell of a singer all across the course of the film. She’s nothing less than a star, and I hope to see her get more, bigger opportunities in the near future.
The fact that this film is about Belgians who clearly wish they were Americans (they even drink Budweiser… they’re in motherfucking Belgium!) is an interesting wrinkle.
That’s like drinking Thunderbird in France… or anywhere really.
Where this becomes a bit of a problem is when it starts to pepper in 9/11 footage and GW speeches in an ill-considered attempt to layer in more subtext. Stick with what you know, folks.
Also, just like a good country music song, this movie is depressing as fuck. I won’t tell you too much about the plot, but it does hinge on a child’s illness, and while this part is handled relatively unconventionally, you’re going to want a stiff drink for it’s (and the movie’s) conclusion.
It’s Blue Valentine for the Bluegrass set. Do you need a better tagline than that?
Take a Drink: for nudity and/or gratuitous tatuage
Take a Drink: for musical interludes
Take a Drink: whenever GW Bush shows up
Do a Shot: Yay, atheist polemic time!