Broken Lines (tbc) | Close-up Film Review

Dir. Sallie Aprahamian, UK, 2008, 97 mins,

Cast: Doraly Rosa, Dan Fredenburgh, Paul Bettany, Olivia Williams

Review by Carol Allen

Jake (Fredenburgh) is a successful young Jewish property developer, living with his fiancée Zoe (Olivia Williams) in a smart suburban house. He is though having doubts about their forthcoming marriage. The death of his father, who was a tailor in London’s Finsbury Park, brings Jake abruptly up against his past – his love for his father, his childhood memories and his resentment of his mother (Harriet Walter), whose infidelity Jake believed destroyed her husband. After the funeral Jake meets and is drawn to B (Rosa), a waitress in a café opposite the soon to be sold tailor’s shop. She is living with her partner Chester (Bettany), a former boxer semi paralysed from a stroke and a difficult man to live with. As the relationship between the him and B develops into an uneasy sexual romance, Jake spends more and more time in the tailor’s shop, spying on B and Chester from a window overlooking their flat.

There are a lot of good things about this film. The script was written by Fredenburgh and Rosa, who are not household names but are both good actors and director Aprahamian has gathered an exceptional supporting cast around them. Bettany in particular is excellent as the understandably aggressive and frustrated Chester, and Walter strong as the mother. The film also makes excellent use of the lively Finsbury Park streets and other locations, such as B and Chester’s run down home and the atmospheric deserted tailor’s shop, littered with the father’s half finished work and now redundant tailor’s dummies. In its concentration on the central relationship between Jake and B, the film is though somewhat careless in building the reality around them and it also takes far too long to clarify the relationship of many of the characters to each other.

Made in 2008, this film predates Williams’s magnificent performance as the abused wife in the forthcoming Tyrannosaur. Her role in this gives her very limited dramatic opportunities in that the problems in the relationship between Zoe and Jake are handled in a distinctly cursory fashion. Rita Tushingham too has a somewhat undefined role as B’s fellow waitress, whose exact relationship to B and Chester is never explained. Even aspects of the more fleshed out Chester are unclear. We gather he has suffered a stroke from the end credits which mention the Stroke Association but we never really learn the circumstances. These details may however be in the dialogue, which is sometimes overwhelmed by unexplained and distracting effects on the over enthusiastic sound track – what sounds at one point like muttering voices and someone moving furniture around in an adjoining room for no discernible reason. The film also at times becomes totally unrealistic in its action in order to enable the director to produce some pretty shots. At one point B leaves her work at the café to be with Jake and next thing they’re chasing each other poetically along an idyllic beach with no explanation of why they are there or how they got there. Not much seashore round Finsbury Park as far as I know.

All of which is a shame as the central story and the performances are good and with a little more attention to making the world around them totally convincing, the film would work better. I do though look forward to seeing more of Fredenburgh and Rosa, now that through their own enterprise they have shown themselves well able to carry lead roles in a feature film

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