Thursday, February 20, 2014



This foreign film nominee from Belgium is a heart-wrencher.  It is the story of a Belgian bluegrass singer who falls in love with a carefree, much tattooed woman, and their seven year relationship.  With flashbacks and flash forwards, we meet them as their 7 year old daughter is dying from cancer, and follow the aftermath as they struggle to recapture their lives together.  They each try to find their own paths to recovery, struggling with religion and politics and just simply the crazy-making reality of life after burying a child.

Along with the beautiful story and the brilliant acting, is a glowing tribute to bluegrass music.  What Inside Llewyn Davis did for folk music this year, The Broken Circle Breakdown does for country and bluegrass.  There is a catharsis in the music in so many places during the film that I started to crave more and more of it.  I happen to love this genre of music, but seeing it through the loving eyes of non-Americans makes it new and gives us a fresh listen, like meeting old friends in a foreign country.

The film was very personal for me, having had a sibling who had childhood cancer and having experienced some of what happened in the film in my own life (though fortunately, my brother lived through it).  But even without the deeply personal connection, the movie is a straight up tear-jerker, and was particularly moving at the end of the story.  

This film exemplifies the gift of the foreign film category at the Oscars.  The rules for submitting a foreign film for consideration in this category are different than for domestic films.  (If you want to read all the technical details, you can do so here.)  Basically, a jury from each country decides what movie to submit, so it's a bit like taking the Oscar winner for Best Picture and submitting it as the competitor from the United States.  All of this means that if you see all 5 foreign films, it's a bit like watching 5 Best Picture winners, and The Broken Circle Breakdown really deserves its place among the five.

Haven't seen the film?
Watch The Broken Circle Breakdown Movie Trailer

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