Newest Review: ... Michael, without quite realising at first what he was doing, came to her rescue. Half Broken Things is mostly set in the huge mansi... more
When neediness gets out of hand
Half Broken Things
Member Name: GentleGenius
Half Broken Things
Advantages: Unusual storyline, well acted, great character development, interesting
Disadvantages: Nothing of significance
RELEASED: 2007, Uncertified
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 95 mins
DIRECTOR: Tim Fywell
PRODUCER: Ray Marshall
SCREENPLAY: Alan Whiting
MUSIC: Colin Towns
Penelope Wilton as Jean
Daniel Mays as Michael
Sinead Matthews as Steph
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Adapted from Morag Joss's novel, Half Broken Things is a film made for TV, first screened in the UK in 2007. It begins with Jean, who is a house-sitter, being sent on an assignment to a large house in the country by her obnoxious boss, who also informs her that being as she (Jean) will be 60 on her next birthday, her contract will then end.
Jean sets off to the huge, gated country house, and it almost immediately becomes apparent that her behaviour isn't quite normal, as she seems to want to take over the place and believe that it is her own.
Meanwhile, petty crook Michael rescues a heavily pregnant Steph from her violent boyfriend, and the pair go on the run, by chance turning up at the house which Jean is looking after. Jean invites them in, feeds them, looks after them, and even delivers Steph's baby when she goes into labour.
Steph and Michael continue living with Jean at her insistence, and a very strange situation arises where they form a make-believe family with one another.
However, problems arise when the rather unbalanced Jean has her moments of lucidity when she realises the situation can't continue forever, and when Steph accepts a babysitting job for a young divorcee in the nearby village.
I went into Half Broken Things blind, having no idea what it would be about, but was intrigued due to Penelope Wilton being one of the main cast members, and I usually am quite fond of British films which are especially made for TV.
Straight away, I felt comfortable with the opening of the film, although I wanted to strangle Jean's very arrogant and up herself boss, but at the same time I could see something odd in Jean's general demeanour that told me she was perhaps a little unhinged, in a quiet sort of way. When the scene switched to pregnant Steph suffering vile abuse from her blockhead boyfriend, I felt so relieved when wide-boy Michael, without quite realising at first what he was doing, came to her rescue.
Half Broken Things is mostly set in the huge mansion house that Jean is looking after, and its surroundings together with the sleepy, quiet calm of the nearby village, gave me a sense of a Britain which perhaps still exists, but has possibly slipped outside of the awareness of the average 'townie'.
Although Jean seems a bit odd right from the start, it isn't until the film gets really underway that the viewer can see the depth of her mind-slip, which causes her to create a fantasy situation that for some of the time, she actually comes to believe herself.
The acting by all concerned is superb, especially that of Penelope Wilton who put a lot into her part, but I did find that the accent she was putting on did slip on occasions. It was also difficult for me to disassociate her from her role (back in the 1980s) as Anne Bryce in the sitcom Ever Decreasing Circles, even though she has obviously aged a lot since then. That did get in the way - a little - of me fully appreciating the brilliance of her acting in Half Broken Things, such being the problem of typecasting.
Daniel Mays and Sinead Matthews also play their parts excellently, with Mays improving as the situation in the film began to spiral out of control, and Matthews is perfect as Sophie, the initially desperate and frightened pregnant young woman who calms down, beginning to smile and enjoy life once installed in a fantasy family situation with Michael and Jean.
All three characters have led rather sad and painful lives, each one reaching out to the others for love and support, although Michael and Sophie have a tighter and more realistic grip on the bizarreness of the rapidly mutating situation with Jean.
I can't say that I had any awareness of a musical score, it probably slipping way into the background for me, as I was concentrating heavily on the characters, the storyline and the path the film was travelling down. There were one or two minor areas where I felt the script could have been a bit sharper, but this was compensated for by the excellent acting.
One thing I especially liked about Half Broken Things was its unpredictability, in that there is no way - at least there wasn't for me - of anticipating how the strange situation will pan out, or how the film will end. There are a few surprises along the way, and although I would call them consequences rather than twists, they are certainly unusual and kept me riveted to the screen from start to finish.
Overall, Half Broken Things is an unusual story which travels down some unexpected paths, I suppose at its core being about how far people will go in attempting to fulfill their unrequited needs. It is a very British film, presented in a way which I on one hand found vaguely heartwarming, yet on the other, I did find the character of Jean a little disturbing, which intrigued me.
If you like a good, largely quiet and tastefully presented drama which focuses heavily on character development and the way the individuals within the storyline interact, this could be something you'd really enjoy. For me, there wasn't a single boring moment, despite a couple of minor flaws such as Penelope Wilton's accent slipping a little occasionally, and perhaps the dialogue could have been sharpened up just a tad....but, they are negligible flaws which didn't in the slightest mar my appreciation and enjoyment of what is a very good film with an unusual storyline.
To close, I will say that my DVD sleeve information shows no age rating certificate for Half Broken Things, but if the choice were down to me, I'd probably classify it as PG.
Would I watch it again? Yes!
At the time of writing, Half Broken Things can be purchased on Amazon as follows:-
New: no new copies currently available
Used: from £19.99 to £29.99
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Summary: Overall, a very good film