‘How the mighty have fallen’, when a footballer errs and winds up a disgrace. For Australians, to see their heroes of the field fall from grace is a bleak affair. Some fans are forgiving, blind to the disappointing reality; others are all too ready to ‘sink the boots in’. This forms the subject of Broke, the debut feature film from writer/ director Heath Davis.
Ben Kelly, or BK (Steve Le Marquand), is the fallen hero, a former rugby star, now a degenerate gambler and drunk. In his home town of Gladstone he is known to police, pawnbrokers and the local community as a ‘has been’. After being thrown out of the local pokies joint, Ben collapses, hungry and drunk, in front of a servo. It is here that the kindly Cec (Max Cullen) finds BK, and takes pity on his former idol. Taking BK home for a decent feed and a good night’s sleep, Cec is as much awe-struck fan as good Samaritan. Cec’s daughter Terri (Claire van der Boom) is equally impressed as her dad when he shows her the drunken man sleeping in their garage.
BK wakes to find he has been sleeping on a cushion emblazoned with a photo of his own face. Letting himself into Cec’s house, he helps himself to a beer from the fridge and then helps himself to anything of value in the house, absconding in Cec’s ute. Pawning everything except Cec’s late wife’s ashes, BK heads straight back to the pokies. It is not long before he is apprehend by police, but when Cec discovers that BK didn’t sell the urn of ashes he gives him another chance. With support from Cec, and a smitten Terri, BK has a chance to get himself on track. He just needs to get his addictions under control and quit his associations with the rougher elements in town.
Broke is beautifully filmed with an incredible score. Haunting at times, then calm and peaceful, the score, combined with the elegant cinematography make this a captivating film. The imagery is muted in places, invasive in others. The score guides the viewer through the nuances of Broke; there is a lot to feel watching the film and the score keeps the film at just the right emotional level.
Steve Le Marquand is easily recognisable to the Australian viewer, yet he has rarely been seen previously in a lead role. He proves himself worthy of the lead here; he gives an accurate portrayal of the aspects of addiction and failed recoveries, and in his hands BK is both loveable and despicable in the right measures. Max Cullen is always amazing, and here he and Claire van der Boom are excellent as the die-hard father and daughter fans, struggling yet content.
There are some strange moments in Broke, which handled differently would prove creepy and depressing. Heath Davis has managed to keep this film from being very much of either. While Broke deals with some heavy and bleak themes, Davis keeps the film from revelling in the horrors of addiction and destitution. Strangely peaceful and laced with optimism, Broke is a beautiful film.
Broke currently has limited screenings around the country. To organise a screening visit Tugg.