The Broken Circle Breakdown uses bluegrass music as a backdrop for a story about a child suffering from cancer and the repercussions it has on her parents. The movie jumps in time from the start of their relationship to roughly eight years later, as their seven-year old child goes through chemotherapy and hopes to survive. Johan Heldenbergh and Veerle Baetens are both outstanding in the leads, with the former playing Didier and the latter Elise. Didier is a pessimistic atheist who often finds other people’s beliefs aggressively controlling; there’s a particularly intelligent scene where he talks with his daughter, who believes that a bird turns into a star after it dies, and how he insists that if it is what she believes, then that’s what it is. She opens his mind, but his closes over the film as self-loathing emerges. Elise is a practical religious woman that sees her faith tests as the film progresses. These aren’t wholly original concepts, but they’re tenderly executed and tragically handled by the film’s conclusion. Covered in tattoos, Elise has a final one added in the film’s closing moments, and it defines this heartbreaking story as one of deep love and heart.

Grade: ★ (out of 5)

Written by Eric Forthun