‘Broken Diamonds’ Review: Illness as a Narrative Convenience
The drama “Broken Diamonds” begins with the death of a family patriarch and the reunion of distant siblings. Scott (Ben Platt) is a writer who hopes to escape a career in Paris, but upon his father’s death he is forced to take on the role of caregiver for his older sister, Cindy (Lola Kirke). She started showing symptoms of schizophrenia when she and Scott were teenagers and as an adult resides in a care facility that intends to deport her for misconduct. Cindy is released to live with Scott, but her impatience in her role makes it more difficult for her to maintain stability.
This film dramatizes the effect mental illness has on families, but sadly, its portrayal of Cindy’s life with schizophrenia never transcends the cliché. One challenge in creating a story around illness, mental or otherwise, is that in life, flare-ups are neither moral nor entirely predictable. Director Peter Sattler emphasizes the uncontrollable nature of Cindy’s illness as a plot point, but the narrative convenience of her mental state is apparent in every gesture, every line of dialogue, and every movement of the camera.
Cindy’s ups and downs correspond directly to Scott’s behavior, his character’s need for growth. When going through a crisis, the breakdown predictably translates into climactic story beats. The film treats the disease like a series of tricks, a motor that drives the plot forward, and the result of this approach is a film that seems lifeless, or worse, reductive. It extracts drama from a mess and offers no insight, no beauty, no humor in return.
Rated PG-13 for self-harm and language references. Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on FandangoNow, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.
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