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‘Broken Diamonds’ review: Story never seems sure what it wants to be

Not as bad as it sounds.

Broken Diamonds begins to wave red flags before the movie has even started. Scott (Ben Platt) is a writer who has been planning to move to Paris. Before he is able to leave his family behind, Scott is told he has to temporarily take care of his mentally ill sister Cindy (Lola Kirke). The synopsis describes a film that will do whatever it can to manipulate audience emotions.

As things opens it becomes clear the plot is going to pull every trick in the book to get people emotionally invested. A parent dies, the siblings are going to have to repair their broken relationship, and Scott has to make the difficult decision between his dreams and his family. It is almost insulting how transparent Broken Diamonds seems willing to be in order to suck viewers in.

As it turns out, things are not nearly as bad as they initially seem. As the story progresses, the strong performances begin to stand out. Platt is excellent as the brother who is trying to figure out what to do with his life. But it is Kirke that is the standout. Dealing with mental illness on film is always a difficult thing – and Broken Diamonds makes some missteps along the way – but Kirke is always genuine in the role.

Characterizations are an important part of a movie that deals with rebuilding relationships. This is where Broken Diamonds will lose some of the audience. While Cindy is an enjoyable character, Scott will end up being polarizing. While some will see him as a person trying to figure out what they need to do with their lives, others will see him as the selfish and unlikable brother who is trying to escape his family. This is because he will come off as things play out.

Things take a strange tonal shift at the end of Broken Diamonds. Part of the problem with film for some will be how it never seems to know what it wants to be. It is never deep enough to take seriously but deals with something that is not something to laugh at. The last few moments seem to get desperate and erase most of the goodwill that has been earned.

Broken Diamonds comes to on demand will be in theaters July 23

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