From the very beginning, Guillermo Arriaga’s film “Broken Night” leaves viewers in a sense of confusion.
The film, which lasts about nine minutes, is a part of the Shorts Competition at the Sundance Film Festival this week.
“Broken Night” contains a four-person cast although most of the actors barely speak during the film. All characters are nameless throughout the story except for the daughter, who is named Angelina.
The film opens with a screen warning that content may be too intense for some and that material is not acceptable for all viewers, setting the stage for a possibly dark and bizarre nine minutes.
The two main characters are a mother and daughter who are journeying through a somewhat barren land when they get into an accident and roll their minivan multiple times. From there, the most logical plot is thrown out the window.
“Broken Night” is lacking in any character development as well as any solid script. The mother is the most vocal character throughout the film, but mostly spends it screaming “Angelina!” and grunting in pain.
The film grows increasingly strange as two mute men appear and steal Angelina while licking blood from the mother’s wounds. More screaming and grunting from her ensues as time moves slowly forward.
“Broken Night” ends with no sure finality to the story; it is unknown if Angelina has been killed or even eaten from the possible cannibals who found the pair.
It concludes with the blood-licking, younger of the two men returning to the scene of the accident where the previously entrapped mother has crawled from the car. He hands her Angelina’s shoe, and ends the movie with absolutely no resolution.
If “Broken Night” has a point other than to completely confuse its viewers, it was clearly lost on me.
The mother’s acting is somewhat unconvincing. The only characters who add something decent to the film are the two strange men. Though speechless, they at least carry on the sense of complete confusion that the film presents through its entirety.
Though the plot and acting is mediocre, the angles from which the movie is filmed are good. The angles in which the car entrapment scenes are shot add a sense of anxiety to help the actors’ inability to translate fear across the screen.
The music is an interesting choice. Only one song, the old childhood nursery rhyme “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly ” is used in both the beginning and end of “Broken Night.”
A peculiar choice, the song sends home the theme of darkness and chilling irony with the repetitive lyric “Perhaps she'll die.”
“Broken Night” is not particularly cheery or enjoyable and is a film that should probably be avoided by those waiting for a new masterpiece from Sundance.