Breaking up a film's narrative chronology is always a risky endeavour. If not used judiciously and purposefully, such a tactic can appear to be nothing more than a gimmick, or a means to sweep storytelling deficiencies under the carpet. The Broken Circle Breakdown succeeds because director Felix Van Groeningen uses this approach to bring a sense of balance to the heart-wrenching story, and because his two leads, Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh, provide a tangible emotional honesty that helps to guide us through their shattered lives.
As a musician couple who've lose their young daughter to cancer, Baetens and Heldenburgh never strike a false note, even when the latter is asked to tackle some odd political rants that feel awkwardly shoehorned into the otherwise tight script. The bold editing and imaginative cinematography impresses throughout, but it's the soundtrack that proves to be The Broken Circle Breakdown's biggest asset, with the bluegrass songs performed by the cast beautifully underscoring the characters' fluctuating fortunes and augmenting the picture's thematic weight. [Philip Concannon]