Review: Compelling 'Broken Diamonds' Tackles Tough Subjects With Compassion

by Roger Walker-Dack

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday July 23, 2021

'Broken Diamonds'
'Broken Diamonds'  (Source:FilmRise)

"Broken Diamonds," the sophomore feature from director Peter Sattler, is a mental health drama from a script by Steve Waverly.  Well done on every level, it will make for disturbing viewing to many whose lives have been touched by similar situations, and even for those whose families have at some time been on the precipice of a life-changing scenario like this.

To paraphrase the famous quote by film star Bette Davis, "Growing old is not the faint hearted," nor is dealing with mental health.

As the story starts, Scott (Ben Platt) is about to leave his job as a waiter to finally go to Paris to fulfill his dream of being the next Ernest Hemingway. He's actually at his own leaving party when he gets the news that his father has passed away unexpectedly, which will mean that his plans may have to be delayed.

The death means that Scott will now have to step up and replace his father as the main caretaker for Scott's older sister, Cindy (Lola Kirke), who suffers from schizophrenia. To make matters worse, when Cindy hears about her father's demise she lashes out at another patient in the hospital where she lives, and gets herself ejected.

There is a delay of two weeks before Cindy can move to another facility, so Scott has no alternative but to take her home to his cramped one-room apartment. 

The reading of the father's will discloses the fact that he left the house jointly to both siblings, so Scott needs to get Cindy to sign papers to sell it. The alternative is to have her declared as not competent to make such a decision. The situation has to be resolved within one week, before he goes to Paris.

Cindy, on the other hand, is determined to prove that she can live independently, and begs Scott to help her get her first-ever real job. Even in the interview process, it's clear that she is unable to interact with other people on a socially acceptable level, which frustrates both siblings even more.

Cindy, who calls herself Sheena when she is well, can only follow the voices in her head. Her therapist confirms to Scott that her medication cannot remove the voices, only make them quieter. Kirke gives a compelling performance as an unhappy woman who, in her more "sane" moments, is aware that she is on a  path of self-destruction. Her interactions with Scott force him to deal with issues from his childhood, including feelings he still harbors of having been neglected by their father while Cindy got all the attention.

The Tony award-winning Platt gives a pitch-perfect performance as the brother who must decide whether he can, in all conscience, still go to Paris, or if he will need to put his own life on hold.

"Broken Diamonds" also reminds us how uncomfortable society feels when someone who is sick acts out in public. It's as if sometimes we are more concerned with our reputation and public perception than with the well-being of our loved ones. Sattler handles it all with great perception, and although the drama may be tough to watch at times, it is nevertheless quite compelling.

"Broken Diamonds" debuts July 23rd In Theaters and On Demand.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.