‘Broken Diamonds’ – A tender film about a mental disorder
Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder and one of the top 15 causes of disability worldwide. It is estimated that 4.9% of those affected commit suicide, a rate much higher than that of the general population. It is characterized by distortions of thinking, perception and emotions, manifested in erratic behavior. “Broken Diamonds” is a loving family film that focuses on the relationship between two siblings, one of whom is disabled.
Based on the very personal script by Steve Waverly, Peter Sattler superbly directs the film with a gentle hand. The story begins with the
Grammy-winning “Dear Evan Hanson” star Tony and Ben Platt deliver a brilliant and nuanced performance of his character as Scott Weaver. On his way to sell his car, he is practicing French for his next trip to Paris, where he has decided to write a book. But, the road to the City of Lights is paved with difficult obstacles, starting with the sale of his failed car. The pretty much lonely Scott isn’t put off by his determination to make his dream come true, but a phone call from his father’s wife, Cookie, played well by Yvette Nicole Brown, puts another sting in his ball as she announces to him that her father is deceased. Saying his last goodbye, Scott crosses both of his father’s hands and gives them a light pat. Cinematographer Bryce Fortner’s camera lingers on this moment, showing the emotional impact of this gesture without a single word. We then meet his schizophrenic sister Cindy, played with sensitivity by Lola Kirke. His dizzying emotional transitions are both subtle and believable. She lived at Crosswinds Psychiatric Institution where she has frequent clashes with her neighbor. Her last altercation is the last straw and she is no longer welcome to live there. The administrator tells Scott that she has made arrangements with a new facility to welcome her sister in two weeks, when he leaves for Paris. Because the family has always been fixated on his sister’s problem, Scott has walked in her shadow his entire life and has grown used to being invisible to his parents. Despite this, he is a devoted brother and agrees to take her to his apartment for the next two weeks. Cindy refuses to sleep on her sofa and is about to go out. Her brother reasons her and gives her her bed. There is a pivotal moment when Cindy opens her medicine bottle, pours the pills into her hand, but decides not to take the psychotropic drug. So begins an even more wild and unpredictable behavior, with Scott by her side trying to save her from herself. As his trip draws near, he finally receives his passport but, again, finds himself facing another hurdle as his sister inadvertently starts a fire in his apartment and the passport is destroyed. She has a new idea and that is to find a job, which her therapist says could be a good thing. Her shrink explains to Scott that even though the drugs lower the voices in her head, she still hears them. He finds her a job as a “bus waiter” in his old cafe, but as you can imagine, this job is short-lived. As the effects of not taking her meds deepen, at one point she doesn’t recognize her brother, the sounds are amplified in her head and she thinks people are following her. The tension rises as it disappears. Desperate, Scott goes to the police and gives them a full description of his missing sister, including the fact that she is no longer on medication. In desperation, he calls his mother, who suffers from dementia, for advice. She tells him that he has to go to Paris. If this was a soap opera, which it clearly is not, here are a few questions: Is Scott flying to Paris? Will he write his book? Is Cindy going back to her meds? And, in the box, what is the meaning of the title of the film?
Director Sattler did a remarkable job securing two believable performances from Platt and Kirke, as well as the supporting cast. He didn’t exaggerate Cindy’s schizophrenic characteristics as it is a role that could have easily slipped into caricature. He guided the actress in embodying the elements of this mental illness, resulting in a sustained performance in which she captured the intricacies and nuances of her character. While Platt’s character is less extreme or “seeing,” he also delivers an updated characterization of a young man torn between living his own dream and contrasting his sometimes reluctant devotion to his grieving sister. The narrative throughout the film is enhanced by the beautiful eclectic musical score by Keegan DeWitt and Dabney Morris with the excellent editing by Robert Hoffman highlighting the action.
Please don’t let the subject stop you from seeing this well-done film. It’s a tribute to a brother’s determination to help his disabled sister achieve some semblance of normalcy. If this was a soap opera, which it clearly is not, I could end this review with: Is Scott getting on that plane to Paris? Is he writing his book? Is Cindy going back to her meds? And, in the box, what is the meaning of the title of the film?
Release date: current
Where: In some cinemas, VOD
The French language
Running time: 90 minutes