If there’s an award for outstanding film debut of the year then it should go to 13-year-old Eloise Laurence. No question about it.
Eloise has just made her big screen debut in Broken, a gritty family drama set in a dreary suburban cul-de-sac. She plays 11-year-old Skunk Cunningham, who lives with her single parent father, her au pair and her teenage brother. Kind-hearted and adventurous, Skunk has had to cope with an awful lot in her life. Her mum ran off with an accountant, she is diabetic, she’s tormented at school, her au pair’s having an affair with her teacher and the two neighbouring families are troubled to say the least.
Broken, which is based on a novel by Daniel Clay, isn’t exactly a laugh a minute film. It features everything from mental illness to parenting to dysfunctional families and an awful lot in between. But Eloise Laurence gives a mesmeric performance. She lights up every scene she’s in (which is virtually all of them) and her facial expressions switch in the blink of an eye. She’s one of those rare performers who make acting seem like a piece of cake.
Director Rufus Norris spotted her talent straight away. He saw more than 850 girls for the part before casting Eloise. The daughter of actors Clare Burt (who also appears in the film) and Larry Lamb, she didn’t take any acting lessons beforehand and apparently hasn’t even decided whether she wants to act when she’s grown up.
The film itself isn’t perfect but it’s definitely worth seeing. The cast includes Tim Roth (as Skunk’s dad), Denis Lawson, Rory Kinnear and Cillian Murphy and they are all excellent. But by the end of the movie, as tragedy after tragedy unfolded, I was emotionally wrung-out and exhausted with it all.
Broken (certificate 15) is in UK cinemas now.