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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bluegrass grief
It is just minutes since I watched the finale of this beautiful film and experienced emotions I have never felt before and need to get this review written while it is all so fresh in my mind.

This is, undoubtedly, a tough watch but arguably, for me, one of the most brutally honest films I have ever seen; not only is it a master class in screen acting but raises...
Published 18 months ago by David Spanswick

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bluegrass and heartbreak
This is a very sad Belgian love story told against the beautiful backdrop of bluegrass tunes. A hairy banjo player in a band meets a kooky, tattooed beauty, and a crazy love develops. Their relationship is told in flashback and real time, sometimes slightly confusingly. It reminded me of the brilliant Blue Valentine. They have a little girl, and when she becomes seriously...
Published 18 months ago by JuliaC


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bluegrass grief, 5 Jan. 2014
By 
David Spanswick (Brighton United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
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It is just minutes since I watched the finale of this beautiful film and experienced emotions I have never felt before and need to get this review written while it is all so fresh in my mind.

This is, undoubtedly, a tough watch but arguably, for me, one of the most brutally honest films I have ever seen; not only is it a master class in screen acting but raises many philosophical questions that in this new century we have still not properly addressed,

This is the love story between a bluegrass banjo player and a lady tattooist. Their love is a Big True honest thing and they are dealt some really nasty cards and have deal with the painful consequences.

This is a story of the healing power of music

This is a story that will stay with you for a very long time after the film has ended

This is a potentially grim tale of love and loss and grief and forgiveness and hope; a story that opens up the question of the possibility of life after death or rather the need to believe when it is time to let go it is not forever

The fractured structure of the film with its flashbacks and flash forwards does not detract from the storytelling if anything it strengthens it and also may induce the viewer to take a second look.It is impossible to remain unmoved by many of the scenes due to the brutal honesty of them. The final scene with its antithesis of the bluegrass musicians gathered around the bed is one I shall not forget in a long while.

So, although, not an easy watch this is certainly what film should be about and I disagree with many other reviewers that it lapses into preaching. I can only guess that they have never experienced grief first hand.

I can not recommend this film highly enough and I do beg you, dear reader, to do yourself a favour and watch this!!
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So deserving of an Oscar, 24 Nov. 2013
By 
M. A. Dunnington (Stourbridge, West Midlands United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
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Spoiler alert - this Belgian film will take you on a rollercoater of emotions. In essence this is a love story. We are taken on a jig saw journey of a relationship - back and forth through the events of their lives.
The male lead, Johan Heldenbergh, is also co-author of the play the film is based upon. His co-star, Veerie Baetens, has recently been on BBC TV in "The White Queen". Both actors are simply superb in their roles, utterly convincing. The third "star" of the film is their 7 year old daughter, Nell Cattrysse, she gives an astonishing performance for one so young.
The film features plenty of Bluegrass music, and I'm pleased to find out that a CD has been released of the soundtrack, also available on Amazon. The band featured in the film, including the lead actors, is fantastic......they make a sound that Nashville would certainly be proud of.
The sub-titles are in-bedded and are never obtrusive.
The direction, by Felix Van Groeningen, is so incredibly intelligent. He allows the viewer to comprehend for themselves the emotions of the central characters.
Apparently the film has been nominated for the Best Foreign Language film in the 2014 Oscars - and it certainly deserves to win. In fact whether it is foreign language or not it is certainly Oscar material.
Definitely one of the best films of 2013!!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lacerating and heart-breaking, beautifully told and with fine music, 8 Feb. 2014
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
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On the face of it, this is a simple and alas reasonably common tale : - man and woman meet, fall in love, have a time of bliss, and a child, who intensifies and changes their bliss, and then some tragedy strikes the child, and everything is changed utterly, and unravels into pain all the way.

This isn't too much of a spoiler, as the opening of the film shows a small child in hospital, being talked through receiving something intravenously, and we see from the parents' expressions this is not going to be good, and immediately the viewer knows where we are heading.

Any individual story is only going to work if we engage with the protagonists, though surely a suffering child almost automatically is going to grab most of us by the throat, sinew, gut and heart, squeeze and not let go. I must admit from the very beginning I was short of breath, and saying `oh no, no, no'

However, there has to be some leaven to get the viewer through this and this Belgian film, directed by Felix van Groeningen, manages its leaven spectacularly, both in filmic, narrative terms and the excellence of the 3 leads.

Elise (Veerle Baetens) is a quirky young woman who owns a tattoo parlour. She meets Didier (Johan Heldenberg, who also co-wrote the script) a blue-grass musician in love with America and its country music. The wonderful, intricate music runs through the film, as the band achieves greater success and scenes take in concerts from little smoky dives to larger stadiums.

The structure of the film (and it works stunningly) is non-linear, as over 7 years of relationship cuts between different moments of past and present. The audience is pretty well in the know of `what happens next' all the way through, so what we focus on is the how and the internal psychology of the individuals. Intercut with this is the friction between faith (Elise) and atheism (Didier) and the wider way in which politics, medical research and individual lives collide.

Baetens and Heldenberg offer beautifully raw, real performances, and are un-airbrushed and unsentimental.

However - I mentioned 3 leads - little Nell Cattrysse as Maybelle, Elise and Didier's daughter, will not so much break your heart as rip it in pieces.

No doubt this review is screaming at the more sensitive - avoid, avoid, but, there is real joy and sweetness within it, and the savour and fizz of life, the upsides as well as the downs, are engaged with. The non-linear narrative inserts slivers of the very very good and the very very painful cheek by jowl with each other. And this is how life is.

Belgium's entry for Best Foreign Language film for the 2014 Oscar nominations
CD of the wonderful score is available :The Broken Circle Breakdown (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brave, honest and thought provoking., 2 Feb. 2014
By 
elsie purdon "reads too much" (dorset uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
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Didier plays and sings in a Bluegrass band, he meets the lovely Elise who owns her own Tattoo shop. She is also covered in colourful tattoos.
The two fall passionately in love and spend a lot of time at Didier's country ramshackle home. Both of them have a love of all things Americana and have a great time together. Elise begins to sing with the Band on their gigs. She is a powerful singer with a moving voice that creates a lot of atmosphere throughout the film.
Elise becomes pregnant and after a bumpy start they have a beautiful daughter, Maybelle.
The story is told in flashbacks, so we see the couple happy in love alternating with the sadness and tragic circumstances as their daughter becomes very ill.
The music is integral to the film. It signals changes and expresses deep emotions for the characters. Two songs stood out for me, "Wayfaring Stranger" and "If you needed me". Not surprisingly there is a CD released of this wonderful musical soundtrack.

This is a very sad film though never sentimental. It is brave, honest and very moving. I think if you have recently been bereaved of a child you may find it very intense.
Issues are being explored like Didier's love of America will be heavily challenged. How to talk to a child about death and the conflict of a religious belief and a non-religious outlook.
The film doesn't try to give answers, it makes you think and will stay with you for a while after. I found the film's depiction of grief very authentic.
Though I wanted a different outcome, the film leaves you to your own thoughts and beliefs.

There is a very strong cast I especially enjoyed the child actress Nell Cattrysee who played Maybelle I thought her performance was outstanding.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bluegrass and so much more, 1 Dec. 2013
By 
JOHN GREEN (Basingstoke, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
I bought this on the recommendation of the BBC and Observer Film Reviewer Mark Kermode on the basis that it was a love story built around some bluegrass songs. Given his liking for 'Mary Poppins', I was a bit wary! However, this is as far away from that as it is possible to get.

The bluegrass music is a cover for some really heartfelt swipes against organised religion, and the way in which people are brainwashed into clinging to it to get through life. The male lead Didier, played by the writer Johan Heldenbergh, is an atheist who refuses to sugar-coat the stark realities of life, even to his young daughter, refusing to tell her that the dead birds that smash into his 'terranda' have gone to heaven, insisting instead that the corpses are good only for the trash. Set against this admirable realism is the female lead Elise (played by Veerle Baetens), who cannot accept that their dead daughter has gone for good, and, in a fruitless bid to construct a new life for herself, changes her name, tries to erase Didier from her life, and clings to the belief her daughter is floating up in heaven somewhere. The outcome is inevitably tragic.

It is somewhat ironic that the most traditionally religious of American music forms is used as the backdrop to what is a thoroughly modern film that does not pull its punches when it comes to traditional religion. I don't think that Nashville would endorse its sentiments, particularly the rants against George Bush and his opposition to the funding of embryonic stem cell research!

Overall, a big thumbs-up to a courageous film not afraid to show its emotions.

Just one star off for a complete lack of extras.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming yet tragic..., 13 Feb. 2014
By 
Stella (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
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What an emotional film this is. Beautifully done, a wonderful cast and great music all combined perfectly and it's no surprise it received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

The relationship between Didier and Elise is charming whilst at the same time tragic and the story is a powerful one. Their daughter Maybelle's illness is pivotal in their future together and it's heartbreaking to watch everything unravel and spiral out of control. It's very moving and I'll admit to shedding tears in a couple of parts.

The Bluegrass music plays a big part in the story and I don't think it would have worked quite as well without it. I didn't really have views one way or the other about Bluegrass before watching this but I might just have to seek out some albums to listen to and am happy to have found a new listening experience as a bonus.

I'd definitely recommend this one. If you're already a fan of foreign language films then this one is eminently watchable and if you're new to subtitled movies you could do much worse than start with this one. It's a wonderful story and beautifully told.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bluegrass and heartbreak, 23 Dec. 2013
By 
JuliaC "Julia Coulton" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
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This is a very sad Belgian love story told against the beautiful backdrop of bluegrass tunes. A hairy banjo player in a band meets a kooky, tattooed beauty, and a crazy love develops. Their relationship is told in flashback and real time, sometimes slightly confusingly. It reminded me of the brilliant Blue Valentine. They have a little girl, and when she becomes seriously ill, their unconventional paradise implodes. It is extremely well acted, and moving. Although it could have done with stripping down and containing a few less themes for my liking. But if you love bluegrass, and are in the market for a bit of heartbreak, this little gem could be just the thing for you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great acting... But..., 1 Dec. 2014
By 
Lola (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
“The Broken Circle Breakdown” is a demanding, exhausting and extremely sad film to watch. Yes, the acting is superb, but beware – you might come out physically and emotionally tired after watching the film.

In spite of the depressing premise the film isn't an emotional force – perhaps because the outcome is somewhat predictable. You are waiting for the worst. The film feels alost emotionally unstable, changing from happy times to depressing outcomes in a blink of an eye, there were a couple of times when I could not immediately understand if I was shown the past, the present or the future. And the idea of Science vs God was somewhat undeveloped and haste.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Broken Circle Breakdown DVD, 6 Jan. 2014
By 
Romreader "pawsperson" (Gosport, Hants, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
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Didier a Bango Player in a country band meets Elise, they fall in love with lots of passion in there relationship. With a tattooed Elise who works in a Tatoo shop the two opposites attract and Elise even sings in the band. Eventually Elise has a baby who they both adore but Cancer strikes their young daughter and then there lives begin to break down with heart ache from parents to loosing a partner, even the music cannot bring one of the couple back from the dead. A sexy sad real life story from the meeting of two people whos lives have good and bad it even made my husband shed a tear which is rare. Great story and a sad end to there poor daughter.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Full of touching scenes, striking images and wonderful music, with characters we would want to care about., 27 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] (DVD)
‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’ is director Felix Van Groeningen’s new Belgian film, following a young married couple comprised of Didier (Johan Heldenbergh), a bluegrass banjo player, and Elise (Veerle Baetens), a free-spirited tattoo artist who joins Didier’s band.

Their relationship changes dramatically with a death in the family, forcing both to reconsider everything. Didier is mad about all things American, but takes a dim view of the then-president George W. Bush’s Christian beliefs on stem-cell research. Elise, surprisingly, has always been religious. With her eyes always in the sky, she sees the dead reincarnated in animal form, much to Didier’s annoyance.

As much in love with his music as he is with his wife, Didier can’t fathom the connection between Elise’s religious beliefs and the often devotional bluegrass songs they play. Any spiritual beliefs Didier has lie in the music, which strengthens their bond when they perform together. This powerful film is occasionally heavy-handed in its use of metaphors, the bluegrass music elevates this often troubling and emotional film into an uplifting experience. It is a subtle but very effective driver throughout the film, where both the pleasure and the pain of bluegrass is woven into the fabric of their relationship.

The central performances of Heldenbergh and Baetens have much to admire, especially the latter, in a stirring relationship full of intensity. ‘The Broken Circle Breakdown’ is full of touching scenes, striking images and wonderful music, with characters we would want to care about. It reminds us that we are a strange species, where anything can be interpreted differently by various people for their own needs, where rationale plays second fiddle to belief. For many, such things help us to function in our daily lives, guiding us through situations we otherwise wouldn’t be able to understand. For others, belief is just not enough.
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The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD]
The Broken Circle Breakdown [DVD] by Felix Van Groeningen (DVD - 2013)
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