Courtesy photoJohan Heldenbergh

Belgian bluegrass film 'The Broken Circle Breakdown' hits screens

“The Broken Circle Breakdown” is a Belgian melodrama about bluegrass and love.

Nominated for six European Film Awards, director Felix van Groeningen’s Flemish-language film tells the love story of a woman who owns a tattoo shop and a banjo player in a bluegrass band.

Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) bond over shared enthusiasm for American music and culture, and their intense romance — which plays out on and offstage — is tested when tragedy, in the form of cancer, hits their young child.

The movie, which has earned mixed reviews, is based on a play of the same name by lead actor Heldenbergh and Mieke Dobbels, who presented it in theaters, churches, public houses and cultural centers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer says the film “deftly juggles some heavy-duty themes: not just the crisis of cancer, parents faced with the possible loss of a child, but the eternal questions.”

The New York Post says, “It has the look of a hipster fever dream, with its banjo playing, bushy beards, copious body art and chicken homesteading. But this Belgian drama is the real deal, an alternately wrenching and ecstatic viewing experience.”

Yet the Los Angeles Times comments: “Belgium’s submission for the foreign-language Oscar gets the music right and has the benefit of strong acting, but its unapologetically melodramatic plot has a tendency to throw everything at you but the kitchen sink.”

— Staff, wire report

IF YOU GO

The Broken Circle Breakdown

Starring Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh

Written by Felix van Groeningen, Carl Joos

Directed by Felix van Groeningen

Not rated

Running time 1 hour, 41 minutes

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