It is rare that something as simultaneously entertaining and profoundly moving springs as if from thin air and into our grasp. One is left to ponder how many worlds will be left far even from the outskirts of our reach – but this one landed in sight when filmmakers Brett Butler and Jason Butler asked that we review their film. Plunging into an entirely unknown story meant that Mourning Has Broken was forced to grow on me. Any former expectations didn’t exist, and so piecing the film together was a gradual and ultimately satisfying experience.
The filmmakers follow the life of a middle-aged man (Robert Nolan) from the moment that morning breaks. Here, we also learn that his wife is no longer in his life – a reality that he finds incredibly hard to come to terms with. From this point, following an extended shot of the protagonist’s face (the expression in his eyes sum up exactly how he feels) he goes about his day, tragically ticking off a checklist on a piece of paper that is branded with the message “Life is what you make it”. Here, embarking on his adventure from a faceless suburb in what we learn from his jeep’s number plate is Ontario, he encounters various situations which magnify his (what we assume is a recent) loss. And here, the directors take advantage of a series of little annoyances that we can all relate to in some way or another.
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As the protagonist encounters each situation – involving traffic problems and annoying couples- his state grows increasingly fragile. He is drained of even the small amount of positivity that helped him get out of bed. Within the film, there were two distinctive moments for me; two scenes that punctuated the story. The first, in which Nolan rises from his seat during a cinema screening to address a crowd of noisy audience members, is simultaneously a tribute to cinema and a manifesto against everything that is wrong with today’s smartphone-driven and “like” ridden culture. Here, he is seen at the end of his tether, standing in front of a screen, screeching at a crowd which is at best irritated by his passionate outburst.
The second is a beautiful moment, a pause amidst the chaos – Nolan steps into a record store, selects what we imagine is an old favourite, and places it on the record player. The camera focuses on his face as he places the headphones around his head. A song kicks in and the audience watches as Nolan displays a moment of sublime acting; his expressions speak volumes as he sheds the weight of the entire day within the duration of a song.
Mourning Has Broken starts to settle as it reaches its end. It becomes more reflective, gentler, harder. It slowly unwinds until we reach the starting point again. And by the end, it is exceedingly difficult to remain unmoved by the profound and devastating plight of a broken man at the quiet breaking point of despair.
Watch the trailer for Mourning Has Broken here:
Mourning Has Broken at IMDb
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Mourning Has Broken (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb