The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Beautifully Broken

Just because a movie is based on a true story does not automatically mean it is good. The story has to be told in a way that emphasizes its special qualities, and it has to be dramatized effectively. I say this because the true story behind Beautifully Broken is undoubtedly more gripping than the film telling it. Given that there have been some high-quality faith-based productions in the past few years The Case for Christ, All Saints, and I Can Only Imagine most recently this one feels like a step in the wrong direction.

The movie follows three fathers. William Mwizerwa (Benjamin A. Onyango from the God's Not Dead series) is a survivor of the genocide in Rwanda who tries to build a better life for his family in America. Mugenzi (Bonko Khoza) is a Hutu farmer forced to abandon his wife and daughter to join a militia. Randy Hartley (Scott William Winters) is a Nashville businessman whose relationship with his teen daughter grows strained after she endures a trauma. Over the course of the movie, the lives of these three men intersect, helping each of them to heal from their individual crises.

That set-up is promising, but Beautifully Broken is excessively heavy-handed and melodramatic. Every single scene is designed to be as weighty as possible. The dialogue is stilted, the performances are overly theatrical, and the intrusive musical score is maudlin, never failing to remind you that your heartstrings are being pulled. It's clear the film is working overtime to be moving, yet it works so hard that everything quickly begins to feel artificial, which ironically robs the story of its ability to move us.

Beautifully Broken's didactic nature is worsened by a propensity for making the most obvious, cliched choices in its characterization. For instance, after Randy's daughter endures her trauma, she begins dressing in black, listening to heavy metal music, and dating a loser who plies her with booze. Could there be a less imaginative way to convey her inner torment? That's one of many examples. It somehow took six credited writers to pen a movie whose screenplay feels as though it was written by a computer.

Director Eric Welch makes his feature debut here, after years of directing music videos. He may be skilled in that format, but it's clear he doesn't know how to tell a story cinematically. Things just spontaneously happen in this film. There's no building of tension, no effort to work up to important plot points, no attempt at deepening the themes. Events occur because the story needs them to at a very specific moment. Nowhere is this more evident than in a courtroom scene so absurd and inauthentic that it certainly ranks as one of the most unintentionally funny of its kind ever put onscreen.

Beautifully Broken has its heart in the right place. The execution of its premise is awful, though. Not even the curiosity value of a bizarre, pointless Eric Roberts cameo can mitigate the sledgehammer approach. At the end, we are treated to the now-obligatory photos of the real-life people, with title cards telling us where they are today. Looking at them, one can't help but wish that a much better film had been made about their journey.

( out of four)

Beautifully Broken is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving violence and disturbing images, and some drug material. The running time is 1 hour and 49 minutes.

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