×

Film Review: ‘Beautifully Broken’

An intelligently inspiring faith-based drama that links the fates of families in Rwanda and Nashville.

Director:
Eric Welch
With:
Benjamin A. Onyango, Scott William Winters, Emily C. Hahn, Jessica Obilom, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, Eva Ndachi, Ditebogo Ledwaba, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, Sibulele Gcilitshana, Tammi Arender, Bonko Khoza, Eric Roberts.
Release Date:
Aug 24, 2018

Rated PG-13  1 hour 50 minutes

Solidly crafted and intelligently inspiring, “Beautifully Broken” skillfully entwines three narratives about faith, forgiveness, and fortuitous interconnections in a drama that likely will receive a warm reception from audiences with a taste for evangelical entertainment. Director Eric Welch and his co-writers attempt a tricky balancing act here, comparing and contrasting the struggles of two African families affected by the 1994 Rwandan Genocide with crises that disrupt a well-to-do white family in Nashville. To their considerable credit, the filmmakers avoid virtually all of the clichés common to formulaic stories of “white saviors” and “magical Negroes” while treating their characters, and their audience, with due respect.

The movie begins during the early days of the Rwandan Genocide, as murderous bands of gun- and machete-wielding Hutu militia hunt and slaughter their Tutsi neighbors and co-workers. William Mwizerwa (Benjamin A. Onyango), a devoutly religious Tutsi manager at a coffee export firm, barely avoids being added to the body count while fleeing with his wife and daughter. Meanwhile, in another part of Rwanda, Mugenzi (Bonko Khoza), a Hutu farmer, is separated from his own wife and daughter when he is forced to join one of the militia units.

For Randy Hartley (Scott William Winters), a successful Nashville businessman, the Rwandan Genocide is — initially, at least — nothing more than an occasionally disconcerting news item on cable TV. A few years after the slaughter, however, his interest increases exponentially as he becomes involved through his church with a Rwandan refugee program, which brings him into contact with William, and his teen daughter Andrea (Emily Hahn) begins up a pen-pal correspondence with Umuhoza (Ditebogo Ledwaba), Mugenzi’s daughter.

When she isn’t writing her Nashville friend, Umuhoza devotes much of her time praying for the return of her father, who remains imprisoned for his role in the Hutu militia while Umuhoza and her mother Tezan (Sibulele Gcilitshana) continue to work their small farm. William, too, frequently offers humble entreaties to God, seeking aid and comfort as he wades through acres of bureaucratic red tape so that his wife Ebraille (Eva Ndachi) and their daughter Aimee (Jessica Obilom) can leave a refugee camp and join him in Nashville.

In sharp contrast, Randy is the one whose faith is temporarily undermined by self-doubt, when the normally cheery and vivacious Andrea inexplicably turns sullen and rebellious, and is arrested for possession of drugs. What Randy and his wife Darla (Caitlin Nicol-Thomas) don’t know — because Andrea is too ashamed to tell them — is that she was sexually assaulted by a stranger during a July 4 outing with her friends, leaving her traumatized and driven to bad behavior and worse companions.

Welch displays admirable restraint while depicting the sexual assault and the Rwanda violence, yet still manages to convey the full horrific impact of both. He and his scriptwriters borrow a few pages from the playbook of French filmmaker Claude Lelouch while employing convenient coincidences and other narrative stratagems to forge connections (and re-connections) between disparate characters. And yet, like Lelouch at his best, they are able to make even the most improbable events in their storyline — which, not incidentally, is based on real-life events — play more like logical transitions than arrant contrivances. The movie pushes too hard only when members of the more-than-competent cast are forced to deliver clusters of flat, on-the-nose dialogue to indicate and underscore major plot points. Fortunately, these clusters are relatively infrequent distractions.

“Beautifully Broken” enthusiastically and unabashedly celebrates the power of faith and forgiveness, and the potential for reconciliation and redemption. But it never comes across as simplistic (or simple-minded) in its boundless optimism. Rather, the movie is dramatically and emotionally satisfying because of its repeated insistence that, because this world and the people in it are what they are, placing faith in God actually can be viewed as an act of defiance. Which is probably why they call it “faith,” not “certainty.”

(Note: “Beautifully Broken” was filmed by DP James King on locations in Port Alfred, South Africa, and Baton Rouge, La., that capably double for Rwanda and Nashville.)

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Beautifully Broken'

Reviewed at Edwards Greenway Grand Plaza 24, Houston, Aug. 25, 2018. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 110 MIN.

Production: An ArtEffects release of a Big Film Factory production, in association with Film Incito. Producers: Brad Allen, Martin Michael, Chuck Howard, Lisa Arnold, Jarred Coates. Executive producer: Randy Hartley.

Crew: Director: Eric Welch. Screenplay: Brad Allen, Chuck Howard, Martin Michael, Mark McCann, Welch. Camera (color): James King. Editor: Peter Devaney Flanagan, Welch. Music: Geoff Koch.

With: Benjamin A. Onyango, Scott William Winters, Emily C. Hahn, Jessica Obilom, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, Eva Ndachi, Ditebogo Ledwaba, Eugene Khumbanyiwa, Sibulele Gcilitshana, Tammi Arender, Bonko Khoza, Eric Roberts.

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Hocus Pocus' Sequel in Development at Disney Plus

    Disney Plus has launched development of a sequel to 1993’s fantasy comedy “Hocus Pocus” with “Workaholics” writer and co-producer Jen D’Angelo on board to script. The original “Hocus Pocus” starred Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy as a trio of witch sisters who have been cursed since 1693 in Salem, Ma. The witches [...]

  • Lady Gaga

    Variety Wins 2019 Eppy Award for Best Digital Magazine

    Variety has won two Eppy Awards from Editor & Publisher, including Best Digital Magazine and Best Collaborative Investigative/Enterprise Feature for “American (In)Justice” — a collaboration with fellow PMC property Rolling Stone. “American (In)Justice” also tied with USA Today’s “Copy, Paste, Legislate” collaboration with The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity. Variety has provided [...]

  • Joker Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

    Box Office: Villains Face Off Again as 'Joker' and 'Maleficent' Battle for First Place

    Despite three new nationwide releases, domestic box office charts look to be dominated by holdovers — Warner Bros.’ “Joker” and Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” — during the last weekend in October. “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” debuted last weekend with $36 million in North America, enough to dethrone “Joker” after the super-villain origin story’s back-to-back [...]

  • Yasushi Shiina

    Tokyo Market is Finding New Strengths, Says Yasushi Shiina

    Clouds on the global economic horizon and disruption to the scheduling of the event, have done little to dampen the interest of foreign visitors to TIFFCOM, Japan’s biggest film and TV market. Especially those from China, says market head, Yasushi Shiina. The market is again running at the Sunshine City shopping, entertainment and business complex [...]

  • "Weathering With You" directed by Makoto

    Toho Unveils Dual Media Romance 'Love Me, Love Me Not' at Tokyo Market

    Japan’s biggest film company, which produces, distributes and exhibits its own product in partnership with leading media companies, Toho has brought a line-up to TIFFCOM full of present and future hits. The biggest is “Weathering with You,” the love story animation by Makoto Shinkai that surpassed the $100 million mark only a month after its [...]

  • Hit Me Anyone One More Time

    TIFFCOM: Pony Canyon Saddles up FujiTV's Smash 'Hit Me Anyone'

    One of Japan’s five major broadcast networks, Fuji TV has also been a pioneer and leader among the networks in feature film production. This year at TIFFCOM long-time partner Pony Canyon is representing Fuji TV films that have recently hit number one at the Japanese box office. Among the hottest, with three straight weeks atop [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content