2012, Movies

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012, Felix van Groeningen)

This is a well-meaning, and well-acted film ostensibly about the breakdown of a relationship but equally about the clash of science and faith in the 21st century. It is, in my opinion, too ambitious, as well as too arty, for its own good. There’s plenty of good stuff, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

At this point, I feel like jumping around in time to show the progress of a relationship is a tired cliche, and some of the dialogue feels that way as well. (If you’ve seen one movie about a failed relationship you’ve definitely heard a few of these lines.) But the inclusion of music as a main component feels fresh and the performances are good enough that I wouldn’t mind the cliches.

The problem is that, in reaching for a bigger statement about faith and science in the present, the film sometimes neglects the relationship aspect. Including stuff about that conflict in the US in particular feels forced. And the narrative jumping is more all over the place than usual, making it feel a little schizophrenic. That may be the idea, but I feel like they should have picked one, and not tried to do too many things.


  • Directed by Felix Van Groeningen
  • Produced by Dirk Impens, Frans van Gestel, Laurette Schillings, Arnold Heslenfeld
  • Written by Johan Heldenbergh, Mieke Dobbels, Screenplay by Carl Joos, Felix van Groeningen
  • Starring:
    • Johan Heldenbergh as Didier Bontinck / Monroe
    • Veerle Baetens as Elise Vandevelde / Alabama
    • Nell Cattrysse as Maybelle
    • Geert Van Rampelberg as William
    • Nils De Caster as Jock
    • Robbie Cleiren as Jimmy
    • Bert Huysentruyt as Jef
    • Jan Bijvoet as Koen
    • Blanka Heirman as Denise
  • Music by Bjorn Eriksson
  • Cinematography Ruben Impens
  • Edited by Nico Leunen
  • Production companies: Menuet, Topkapi Films
  • Distributed by Kinepolis Film Distribution
  • Release date: 10 October 2012
  • Running time: 111 minutes
  • Country: Belgium
  • Language: Dutch
  • Box office: $5.5 million

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