¨Bluegrass, that is Country in its purest form.¨
Your musical taste for Bluegrass Country music could affect how much you enjoy this Belgian melodrama, and for me it worked really well because every time the narrative structure began feeling a bit forced the soundtrack saved the moment. Perhaps I would've enjoyed this more if I hadn't seen Blue Valentine, but so many elements from that movie seemed borrowed here by Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen. It has a similar narrative as the story is told in non-linear fashion focusing on a couple falling in and out of love. What did work really well here were the two lead performances who made every dramatic moment seem very real and authentic. They shared an incredible on screen chemistry without ever overdramatizing their scenes. They also did their own singing, and they have incredible voices so that drew me in as well. Some of the dramatic scenes were really sad and the film also touches on some very heavy handed themes, but they work thanks to the performances as well. It is a touching film that will pull on your emotional chords and it can be a bit too preachy at times, but I still enjoyed this film despite its flaws. By the way, The Broken Circle Breakdown is Belgium's official submission to the 2014 Oscars for the best foreign language film category. It has a shot at being nominated, but I don't think it will win. I think the two lead actors deserve more recognition than the movie itself.
The plot centers on the relationship between Didier (Johan Heldenbergh), a cowboy banjo player for a bluegrass country band, and Elise (Veerle Baetens) a tattoo artist who has her own shop. The two meet and quickly fall in love, but the film cuts back and forth between their relationship when they first met and then seven years into their relationship as they deal with their daughter's (Nell Cattrysse) illness. Both deal with this tragedy in different ways, which eventually begins to shake their apparently steady and strong relationship. The story jumps back and forth as we see the couple falling in and out of love. The entire film centers on this couple and everyone else around them is barely significant to the story.
Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh give very good dramatic performances and their characters are given much substance. They carry this film and keep our attention even through some forced moments where the story seems to lose its balance. Didier is an atheist, but he loves America and is obsessed with bluegrass music. He finds it silly and offensive to think that people actually believe in religion, but at the same time he sings gospel songs like Over in the Gloryland and Where the Soul of a Man Never Dies. Then all of a sudden after he experiences some deep tragedy he begins to rant on how stupid people are for having faith. This isn't a complaint I have with the movie, as much as I do with his character, but I just don't understand why people wait for some personal tragedy to hit them to then all of a sudden begin caring for something. It just shows how selfish we really are because until it hits home we didn't even think about it. Now all of a sudden, the culture he has always loved is full of people he hates because their faith hasn't allowed stem research to develop as quickly as he would've liked. The way Didier deals with grief just made me dislike his character, but I guess the writers wanted to include this to make this some sort of science versus religion story. I thought it just became a little too heavy handed and preachy when it could have focused more on the soundtrack and let the music touch these characters since it was such an important part of their lives. In my opinion the performances and the music saved this film and got it through some of those difficult and cliched scenes. The Broken Circle Breakdown is still a very good dramatic film and one I recommend.