The Broken

You're a doppelgänger, dammit, act like one!
Released:
2008

Director: Sean Ellis

Starring: Lena Headey, Ulrich Thomsen, Richard Jenkins, Melvil Poupard

The Setup:

Woman sees herself driving by. What's going on?

Discussion:

So there I was on Netflix when this comes up as some alternate selection, and I'm intrigued by the cover art, and the blurb says that a woman sees her double walking down the street, and then reality ceases to exist for her. Which makes it sound kind of trippy, right? I'm on board whenever reality ceases to exist. Then the disc arrives before I even have a chance to IMDb it, and when I do I find comments split into two camps: that it's astonishingly show and boring, or that it's atmospheric and languid, but creepy and rich. That kind of opinion divide intrigues me, so I watch it. And it turns out to be atmospheric and creepy, but with only enough ideas to support a seven-minute short. And some dishonest storytelling.

We open with a quote by Poe about his double trying to kill him--or something. Then we meet Gina, played by Lena Headey, a London neurologist with a boyfriend, Stefan. He calls to tell her that he can't talk, because it's too loud. Obviously the call is just there to introduce his character. They meet that night at the house of Gina's father, played by Richard Jenkins. Also present is Gina's brother and his blond girlfriend. There is false suspense as Dad thinks there's an intruder--but it's just a surprise party! It's his birthday. They all talk and drink when suddenly the mirror falls off the wall and shatters with a nice bang. That moment was good. But the thing is, we're about 15 minutes into the movie and that's all that has happened.

So Gina goes home, wakes in the morning, showers, and as she wipes the mirror, we see her from "behind" the mirror. She walks away, the mirror shatters, and we see two feet, in shoes like Gina's, step out of the mirror. Stefan has a broken mirror as well. Later, when Gina's ready to leave work, a co-worker says he just saw her leaving. She goes outside, and sees herself driving by in a car. She follows the car (on foot, in high heels), but luckily it only goes around the corner and parks. She follows her double up into an apartment, and goes inside, where she finds a framed picture of herself with her father. She looks up, as though someone has come into the room--and the screen blanks.

We next see her car starting, and Gina takes it driving. She is distracted, gazing at herself in the mirror, when she smashes straight into a cab. There's nice slo-mo photography as all the water beaded on the car is sent flying into the air in lovely drops, but there's no need to watch it again, as the same accident will be repeated, from nineteen different angles, three hundred times during the movie, to fill out the time where other films usually have ideas or stuff happening.

SPOILERS > > >
She wakes in the hospital. She's pretty much totally fine, but for a minor scratch on her forehead and a (visually effective) bloodied eye, and after more time-wasting, she goes home with Stefan, where she takes a long, pointless bath. We note that Stefan's dog (only seen in the film at this one moment) growls at him and tries to bite his hand. Stefan looks at her creepily after Gina goes into the attic for a pointless faux-suspense scene. Then Gina has a disturbing dream in which blood is pouring from the ceiling and Stefan is on her, fucking her while he drools on her, in a way that doesn't look like respectful and mutually-satisfying lovemaking that considers her fullness as a woman. The dream sequence was effective! Thing is, that's the only thing that has happened in twenty minutes.

Then Gina goes to her therapist, and tells him that her boyfriend is not her boyfriend. Sound like Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Two points for you. We now have a lot more bullshit, including an Asian neighbor who seems upset on the stairs, with his wife staring creepily out of the open door. So maybe lots of people are feeling like their loved ones are not their loved ones? Maybe this is some sort of city-wide epidemic? The Asian guy is never seen again and the idea that this might be happening to others is dropped entirely.

Now we're getting to the final third of the movie, which means that sixty minutes have passed and the only things that have happened are the few things I've told you. I start fast-forwarding, a decision I did NOT regret. Soon the blonde girlfriend of the brother is killed by her double in the shower, using the old whole-hand-down-the-throat method. Then Gina goes over to Stefan's house and finds his corpse upstairs in the attic. Then she calls her Dad, but right then his double comes out from behind him, and we know it's curtains for Dad. Then Gina has to escape from evil Stefan, gets out through the bathroom window, and goes over to the apartment where she saw he double going into. And now batten down the hatches as you prepare to receive the revelation that will SHOCK YOU TO THE VERY CORE... that someone thought this was enough to base a ninety-minute movie around.

Gina goes into the bathroom to find: an armadillo and a howler monkey having tea! No, silly, she finds her own corpse, and then she's like "No.... no! No! No.... no, no..." and the memories come flooding back of her finding herself, and bludgeoning herself, and you might have to watch it a few times, and even then not totally be sure who killed whom (they're both wearing the same outfit), but the takeaway is: The doppelgänger killed the real Gina, way back when she followed herself into the apartment, but then she had the car accident, and forgot she was a doppelgänger! But now she remembers that she's an evil doppelgänger, damn it, she's going to act like one! So she's like "I will be evil now, bwah-ha-ha, evil, I tell you!" and she freaks out her brother when he realizes that she's been taken by the doppelgänger menace, and the last shot is of her driving her SUV, smirking as she goes forth to be evil, Evil, EVIL!

Yes, so basically you spent the whole movie with Gina being all freaked out about the doppelgängers around her, like her boyfriend, without realizing that she is a doppelgänger herself. Or, to put it another way, the movie strung you along the whole time with Gina being scared, then suddenly pulls a twist that is barely supported by the preceding film, and requires a late-game 180-degree personality turn by Gina, and is pretty much total bullshit. Who are these doppelgängers, where do they come from, and what do they want? We'll never know. Is this something that is happening to everyone in the city? It's suggested, but we'll never know. So at the end, your patience isn't rewarded by finally getting some answers, you just get the Gina switcheroo which comes off like a tacky twist for the sake of having a twist. She's an evil doppelgänger who forgot to be evil. She recoiled from her evil boyfriend, not realizing she was evil herself. And he, who knew he was evil, couldn't tell that she was evil. But she, once she realizes she's evil, turns evil. Yep, who's to say it couldn't happen?
< < < SPOILERS END

Other than that, not a whole lot else to offer. Some on the IMDb say that this movie is "creepy" and "atmospheric," but the atmosphere here is not anything that hasn't been seen in numerous other movies that actually have something going on. I don't mind a movie that is slow and meditative, but there's a difference between Tarkovsky, which has so many ideas you need to slow way down just to think about them all, and this, which has empty visuals that suggest something might be going on, until you find out that nothing is. Lengthy wide shots of the city of London and the numerous slo-mo repeats of Gina's accident just underline the lack of substance here. This could have, and should have, been a juicy ten-minute short film. But as it is, ninety minutes is about eighty too much to support the meager revelations this films has to offer.

Should you watch it?

No, I would skip it entirely.

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